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When a Pastor Falls, pt. 1: What Can Leaders Do?

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, affair, church, church leadership, church members, churches, conflict, fallenness, gossip, leadership, ministry, pastoring, pastors, preachers, reconciliation | Posted on 02-10-2014

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I wanted to be able to write something to help churches and leaders have a guide for when their pastor falls. The crisisproblem is that no two situations are quite alike. And yet, all situations are very similar. For the next few posts, I want to give some help that comes from my experience and from the things I’ve read in the past four years.

When a pastor falls, it’s not an easy experience for anyone. The advice I’m giving is general advice for when a church learns that their pastor has fallen morally. He might have committed adultery with another person, he might have been engaged in what he calls an “emotional affair“, or he might have been engaged in a long time addiction to pornography. This post is designed to help the leaders in the church when the find out their pastor has fallen.

I want to start off with a few basic reminders before I start throwing out advice.

1. Remember that each and every decision needs to be bathed in prayer. People will be quick to act, easy to anger, and will be very hurt. Prayer has a way of focusing us in the right way.

2. Remember that decisions based on God’s Word, no matter how difficult they might be, will always be the right ones. A pastor who has committed adultery has forfeited his right to shepherd the flock for a time (that topic to be covered later).

3. But always remember that decisions based on God’s Word are always to be made with grace, love, and humility. If the pastor is removed, it should always be done with the grace of Galatians 6:1.

4. Never forget that there are many people involved in this matter. One man’s sin may be at the forefront, but there are many others who need care and need to see the church act with truth, love, and grace.

5. Keep it confidential until a decision is made. If your church leadership is gathering facts and talking to the pastor, gossip should not be part of anyone’s life. When the facts come in, your pastor may be cleared. If one of the church leaders goes home and tells his spouse all the details of an important meeting and word gets out and severely twisted, the damage may be too great.

6. Finally, never be afraid to ask for outside help. If your church leadership team isn’t sure about what to do, or you feel like you can’t seem to agree, find a mediator. Ask an expert for help. There are a lot of people I know and there are people provided by your denomination or association who can offer wisdom. Never feel like you’re alone or that you’re the first ones to go through this.

truefalseSo let’s get to some first steps in this matter. I don’t want to assume anything – like I said, people tend to find out differently and people tend to react differently.

Get The Facts Straight

Finding out that the pastor has committed some sort of adultery is not easy. The information can come in many different ways:

  • A rumor that has spread in the community
  • A church member might approach the church leadership with a printed out series of emails or Facebook messages that prove the pastor’s infidelity
  • An anonymous letter is sent to the pastor and church leadership from a woman claiming to be his mistress
  • The pastor’s wife might approach a deacon regarding her suspicions about the minister and a church member or staff member
  • A staff member might tell church leadership of an ongoing affair
  • At the end of a service, a church member/staff member might confess that the pastor has been cheating with them
  • The rumor might begin on a social media site (Facebook, Twitter) and get picked up by local media

There are many ways that church leadership can get informed of an issue the minister might be having. I’ve heard of or witnessed all of the scenarios listed above. The easiest thing to do is panic. The knee-jerk reaction is to fire the pastor.

The best thing to do is for the church leadership is to respond in a calm and biblical manner. Most church by-laws require some sort of due process for the minister. It is important to have a meeting with him. Before that meeting takes place, it is a good idea to do fact gathering from people who are knowledgeable about the situation.

The church leadership should take seriously any first-hand evidence that is presented to them. Always be wise with any evidence, discernmentunderstanding the people presenting it. Such a time requires discernment. If a person asks for a meeting with the church leadership and confesses to an affair with the pastor, should their claim be taken seriously? Absolutely. They have a right to be heard. Their claim should not be rejected outright. If they have evidence of communication, it is even more helpful. A problem can arise when someone rejects their claim because this person, “Isn’t the pastor. They aren’t trustworthy.”

Every person who has a justifiable claim has a right to be heard. Again, the claim may later be rejected as false or partially false, but all evidence needs to be weighed before rejecting any outright.

Gossip, innuendo, and rumor is not typically helpful. Anonymous letters are not the greatest. However, I have known many women who have written such letters and were truthful in what they wrote. Of course, the fact that they did not sign them led many to reject the claim. The church leadership should be careful in approaching such communication.

The pastor’s side of the story should be heard as well. He needs to understand the facts that have been gathered or given to the church leadership. One of the worst things that can happen in a meeting is for things to get personal. Sticking to the facts is very important.  I’ll talk more about meeting with the pastor later. But understand that it is important to always gather as much information as possible.

Don’t Read Into The Situation

If you do hear gossip, receive a letter, or have someone approach your leadership about your pastor’s fidelity, treat it as a serious matter.

One of the worst things we can do when an accusation is made (and no fault has been found in the pastor yet) is to think, “You know he has been acting weird lately,” or “He has always hugged the women in the church too long,” or “I never did feel comfortable around him.” You may feel those statements are true, but those statements may have nothing to do with the matter on the table now.

As church leaders, examine the facts as you have them, pray over them and prepare your heart for what decisions may lie ahead. Next time, we will examine meeting with the pastor, his reaction, and his spouse.

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

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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.

5 Tips For Sinners Looking For a Church

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in Christ, church, church face, church members, churches, restoration, worship | Posted on 24-09-2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

AA053485Tip Three: Remember God Doesn’t Live There

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

Tip Four: Don’t Always Visit On Sunday Morning

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

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

Tip Five: Don’t Forget The Smaller Churches

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

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

Tip Six: Remember, Christ Will Come To You

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

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

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

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

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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 Rejection of the Fallen Pastor’s Wife

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, church, church leadership, church members, churches, repentance, restoration, wife | Posted on 29-08-2014

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Over the past five years as I’ve ministered to fallen pastors, their wives, their churches, and the women caught in adultery, there is one upwifeprofound and disturbing scene that plays over and over again. It is a story that is told in my book by eyewitnesses. It is a story I have heard numerous times over the past few years.

When a pastor or minister falls in adultery, the church is often quick to put him out. There is much anger, frustration, and sometimes hatred.

One of the questions that comes to bear quickly is, “What will his wife do?

This question is asked by her family. I’ve seen the wife’s family most often say, “You need to leave him. He’s cheated on you. Get rid of that man.

The response from the church is often the same: “He cheated on you and has abandoned his calling. Divorce him.

I don’t really know how to reconcile these thoughts. Let me say out front that adultery is awful. It’s terrible. When a man chooses to willingly commit adultery, he has abandoned his family, his marriage, and if he is a pastor, he has chosen to leave his ministry position. It is a terrible, sinful situation.

The feelings that occur when the pastor has been caught are tremendous. People feel betrayed. They are hurt. They have a sense of grief and vengeance at times. When any of us are hurt, we often lash out and want the person who has hurt us to feel the same hurt that we feel.

The cultural and secular response to adultery is to divorce. It is to leave your spouse. It’s the feeling the church has when they find out their pastor has committed adultery. It’s a typical response. It’s the most common response. The church wants to distance themselves from the pastor and they fire him, kick him to the curb, without any further mention of his name or consideration of his future. It is a very human and visceral response.

What I’ve been arguing for in this blog for five years is that the visceral response is not a biblical response. If the pastor shows no signs of repentance at all, it may be best to let him go on his way. But if he is caught and shows any kind of repentance, then Galatians 6:1 kicks into gear and we are to restore him as we are to restore anyone within the community of faith who has fallen into sin. That is what the body of Christ is about. I’m not talking about restoring him to the pulpit. But I’m talking about getting him help so that he can be restored to Christ. Back to his wife and family.

“What is most disturbing to me is the reaction I see when the pastor’s wife wants to restore her marriage to the fallen pastor and she is held in contempt.”

What is most disturbing to me is the reaction I see when the pastor’s wife wants to restore her marriage to the fallen pastor and she is held in contempt. This happens when the church has reacted harshly to the minister’s sin and they have no desire to restore him at all. They have decided that the best thing for the minister’s wife is to leave him. But, she has decided that the best thing is to stay with him and restore their relationship.

I have seen it play out over and over where churches see the pastor’s wife reject her as an ally of the fallen pastor. They see her as damaged goods – just as damaged as the fallen pastor.

What they should see is a woman who is deciding to be a restoring, Christ-like agent in the life of her husband. They should draw up beside her and give her and him the support they need to restore their broken marriage. Unfortunately, what happens too often is that the church throws both of them out. They see her as a blind person who can’t see that he is just a terrible, lost sinner who has fallen too far from grace and cannot be saved.

Is this the Christian response? Is this a biblical response?

hurtspI don’t want to be too hard on the church, because I believe in most cases, the church is responding out of anger and hurt. Most churches are ill-equipped to handle the fall of a pastor or minister in this situation. They may not have the ability to walk alongside their pastor and his wife, but they should be able to find people who can.

Friends, there is sin in this world. It happens to our leaders. And when a pastor falls and his wife bravely and Scripturally chooses to stay with him, they should be supported by the local body of believers. They should not be shunned or cast out. If the local church cannot find it within themselves to help, they at least should find someone on the outside who can walk with them.

Abandonment of a hurting ministry couple who are going through the worst time of their lives is not the answer. If we are going to address the serious issue of ministry failure, we have to do better. As church leaders, members, associational directors, denominations, and Christ-followers, we must do better to take care of those who we call brothers and sisters.

Here’s help:

Is Your Church Equipped To Handle Ministry Failure?” Fallen Pastor

Unmasking the Secret Pain of Pastor’s Wives

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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.

Restoring the Adulterous Plumber and Pastor

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, church members, churches, forgiveness, restoration | Posted on 25-08-2014

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Fallen pastors go through a series of stages after their fall from ministry. It’s a topic that consumes a lot of space in my book, “Fallen Pastor.”plumber

Fallen pastors spend a lot of time being angry and justifying their actions. I know I did. Anyone caught in sin, as we all know, have the same reaction. Whether we get caught stealing, lying or breaking any number of God’s laws, each of us has an instinct to further sin and justify our actions. In our self-justification, we often become angry at those whom we have hurt and are angry with us.

Several of the fallen pastors I interviewed for my book (as well as me) had a response like this: “The local plumber, architect, or attorney can commit adultery and no one cares. But if the pastor does it, it’s the worst sin imaginable. He’s thrown out of church, everyone gets angry and forgiveness is never granted to him.

There is a lot of truth in this statement. However, as time has passed and repentance came, I realized that there were better ways of looking at the situation.

First, people do still gossip and talk when others commit adultery. However, when the pastor falls, the volume does get turned up. There is a reason for it. Scripturally, more is expected from church leaders than others. They are to be “above reproach.” When they are found to be otherwise, it can be an awful shock to those who placed their faith in him as well as a chance for an unbelieving world to cast doubt upon the message of Christ.

One of my angry arguments used to be that the church shouldn’t be any more angry at the layperson who committed adultery and was allowed back in the church after forgiveness than they were the fallen pastor. That might be a poor choice of words. But it cannot be denied that pastors are to be expected to be held to a higher standard as overseers of the flock. Does that mean that Bob the plumber doesn’t have to follow the ten commandments? Absolutely not. It does mean that a pastor is called to be a church leader. A shepherd. He is Bob’s leader and has a responsibility to display a life of righteousness inside and outside the church.

“Does that mean that Bob the plumber doesn’t have to follow the ten commandments? Absolutely not. It does mean that a pastor is ordained to be a church leader. A shepherd. He is Bob’s leader and has a responsibility to display a life of righteousness inside and outside the church.”

This doesn’t mean the pastor is “better than” Bob. It just means he has a life that is supposed to display qualities of biblical leadership that people should be encouraged to follow.

There are other leaders in our society who are held to a higher standard as well. Politicians, for one.  I blogged about Congressman Anthony Weiner and his fall from office after inappropriate Twitter conversations with women other than his wife. It should be noted, I don’t care for politics. But as far as I’m aware, there is no moral rule regarding politicians versus others. There have been immoral politicians since politics began, regardless of party, and each time there are people with demands that they should step down.

My point is this – there is no rule for career politicians to be moral, as far as I am aware. But there is a law for God’s people. All of God’s people. The law is the same but the standard is higher for leaders. “Let it not even be spoken of you.

There is another matter, one of forgiveness. When a Christian violates God’s law and repents, forgiveness is available immediately. Our God is just and loving and will forgive. We may not escape the consequences of our sin on earth, but we may find His peace now.

The sin of a layperson will probably not hurt a church as much as the moral fall of a pastor. When a pastor falls, the repercussions last for many years. The fallen pastors I speak to tell me that decades later, they still have not found reconciliation with their former church.

Regardless of who sins within the church, all members of the community of faith should be approached with the restoration attitude of Galatians 6:1. When one among us sins, we should see them as a fallen brother or sister in Christ, one who needs restoration back to Him.

Restoring the Sinning Brother,” John MacArthur

Restoring the Sinner,” by wordandspirit

Restoring Fallen Brethren,” by Ryan Hicks

Bearing Burdens: How One Sinner Relates to the Sin Of Another,” by Bob Deffinbaugh

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

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

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

A Haunting Story of Pastor Suicide

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, book, Christ, church, churches, fallenness, hope, pastoring, pastors, self-harm, suicide | Posted on 15-08-2014

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

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

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

Once again, recent events have brought the suicide question to our thoughts and hearts.

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.

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 while back, 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.alonepastor

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.

Pursue 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.

Providence And DepressionRemember 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.

Other helpful articles:

I understand that the people at the National Suicide Prevention Hotline are really awesome to talk to. Feeling like you’re on the edge? Close to it? Call them. Please: 1-800-273-8255 Check it, they have a website too: http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

More links:

Why are so many pastors committing suicide?” by Crosswalk.com

Pastors: Mental Illness and Suicide” by Rev. Mark H. Creech

A Pastor’s Suicide: Addressing Mental Health in Black Churches” by Darnell Moore

Suicide: When Pastors’ Silent Suffering Turns Tragic,” by Greg Warner, USA Today

Pastors in Trouble 6: Pastors & Suicide” Fallen Pastor

Do Christians Who Commit Suicide Go To Heaven?” Fallen Pastor

Junior Seau and ‘The Easy Way Out‘” Ray Carroll on Provoketive.com

Whitney Houston and Humanity’s Most Important Question” Ray Carroll on Provoketive.com

Is Your Heart Right & Is Whitney Houston in Heaven?” Fallen Pastor

Robin Williams and Why Funny People Kill Themselves” by David Wong at Cracked.com (Warning: Strong language and images – a very informative and helpful article, however concerning depression, people of humor, and how they mask it)

__________________

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.

Would You Let King David Preach At Your Church?

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in church, churches, fallenness, pastors, preaching, restoration | Posted on 21-07-2014

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delorean

“Quick, Marty, we need a supply minister. Let’s go get King David!”

Good question. Answer it quick. Right now. In your mind.

Yeah, it’s hypothetical. Would you let King David, if he were available right now – to preach one Sunday morning service in your church?

Yes. You would.

If you had hold of a DeLorean equipped with a flux capacitor, you would.

Why? Because he’s King David for crying out loud. Killed Goliath. Fought bears and lions. Was a man after God’s own heart. Heck, he fled when he knew he was the rightful man to be on the throne and was gracious to Saul. He loved his own son Absalom when Absalom wanted him dead. What a guy, right? Out of his lineage came our own Savior, Jesus Christ.

Oh, but wait. David has a mixed history. He had some wives. Some concubines. He committed murder and adultery.

I was talking to someone a while back that gave me some great insight on David. He said, “Despite David’s sin, he was always a man after God’s own heart. People would always judge him for his actions, but God always loved him for who he was.

David had struggle after struggle. Many of those struggles were his own fault. He sinned greatly, like many of the people we cherish in Scripture. Yet God showed them favor. Yet many pastors would allow David behind the pulpit to preach a sermon for one Sunday, wouldn’t we?

I ask that for an important reason. There are a lot of men who have fallen from the ministry. Since I fell almost five years ago, I have spoken to hundreds of them by text, email or phone. I have spoken to their wives, their church members or their families. I have referred them to others for help.

Some of them, like myself, did not reconcile with our first wife for whatever reason. Here’s a question, what wife was David supposed to reconcile with? Don’t hear me making a justification argument for my sin. I sinned. And I’ve made that very clear. Every fallen pastor I’ve dealt with and interviewed in my book takes complete blame for their sin.

But each man either reconciled with their wife or moved on. Even if they didn’t reconcile, they eventually found forgiveness from God and decided to walk a path of holiness from that point forward. The eggs had been broken and scrambled. There was nothing to be done.

Each of these men, like myself, had discovered that God is gracious beyond what we deserve. We don’t deserve to wake up in the morning. We don’t deserve God’s grace.

For the fallen pastor who has been restored, many of them have had a chance to tell their story from the pulpit. They’ve had a chance to preach or talk to a congregation. This isn’t the same as restoring them back to the pastorate – it’s giving them a chance to talk about the grace they’ve been shown and to talk about the grace and mercy of Christ.

The question is, “Would you let a fallen pastor who has been restored preach in your church?”

Since my fall and my restoration, I’ve had grace extended to me by several pastors. They have allowed me to preach. I’m not asking to be restored to the pastorate, but I was given grace to speak at their churches. Let me tell you what I discovered.

First, I found that my preaching was filled with more grace and love than I ever had when I was a pastor. Before my fall, I was more judgmental and harsh than I was after. After I fell, I preached from my heart, but still from the word, but with compassion for the hearts of the people.

Second, I found that people connected with someone who had fallen so far. People in the congregation want their pastor to be of high regard and of high moral standards. That’s the way it should be. When I spoke, I told them of the dangers of sin, the dangers of wandering from God, and my own story. I told them of the importance of holiness and how Christ loves us despite our sin.

What I’m saying is that inviting a restored fallen pastor into your pulpit isn’t much of a danger. In fact, it can be helpful to you and your congregation. Talk to him first, face to face. Find out what he has to say. Hear his story and his journey.

The first time I preached after my fall, I wasn’t sure what to think. But I preached on John 8, the woman caught in adultery. I was very clear about what I had done and about how awful sin is. But I also spoke about the compassion and forgiveness of Christ.

That Sunday, three people responded. One was a woman who had been committing adultery with a man for eight years. She broke it off that week and was baptized by the pastor the following week. The next was a visiting church deacon who confessed he had committed adultery. Finally, another deacon who wanted to talk to me about his adultery. I praise God for that. I had little to do with it.

I had someone say to me, “I love our pastor and I hear what he has to say, but your story touched me because you’ve been through it.

Almost every time I preach, I have people come up to me and say, “I need help. I’ve been where you were and I want help.

Friends, I don’t like the fact that I’ve been through it. But I’ve been forgiven. And I guarantee you that there are men around you that have stories to tell that can help those in your congregation.

Do we really believe that God works all things together for those who love Him? Pastors allow all kinds of people to share their testimonies, but it seems the ones we don’t allow are pastors who have committed adultery. The ones we want to kick off into the shadows and forget.

I’ll tell you this – I speak with fallen pastors every day. God has not forgotten them. They have sinned greatly. But God is not done with them. And their voices, once restored, can help many people in a great way.

Other helpful articles:

How To Prepare When You’re The Pulpit Supply” by Joan Huyser-Honig

Lessons Learned About Pulpit Supply” by Ed Eubanks

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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.

“Ye Which Are Spiritual”: Guest Blog by Bobby Sutton

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in book, churches, pastors, restoration | Posted on 11-07-2014

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bobbyToday, I’m pleased to let my new friend Bobby Sutton write what is on his heart. I recently wrote a review about his book that I encourage you to read. He has a heart for the restoration of fallen pastors back to Christ and he has a very important message about fallen pastors who still have a calling in this world. His post reads like a call to every fallen pastor and every person who wants to see the current situation in our churches change for the better. I know you will find his words encouraging and challenging.

Ye Which are Spiritual

by Bobby Sutton

Paul said to the church at Galatia that if a man be overtaken in a fault (sin) then the spiritual are the ones who are to be instrumental in a restoration process (Galatians 6:1). I am a fallen pastor. Fifteen years and four months ago, I had an affair and the aftershocks have continued through the years.

With 25 years of ministry gone, and the collapse of a 35 year marriage and in the process of finding my way back to a relationship with God, I have not encountered many of “the spiritual.” Quoting from my book “I Slept With Potiphar’s Wife” chapter eight on restoration concerning Galatians chapter six:

“According to Jamieson, Fausset and Brown commentary the word restore in Greek is katartizete is used of a dislocated limb being put back in place, According to other Greek authorities the word refers to setting bones, mending nets. The instructions are clear as to how we are to treat ‘fallen’” brothers and sisters. We are to treat them with the same tenderness a physician would treat a broken patient. I think the key words are ‘ye which are spiritual.’

“You can throw a hand grenade into a room full of people and then criticize the way that they react, but unless you are in the room, you do not have the right to complain about their reaction. I threw the grenade and I did criticize some of the reaction. I was astonished to find that most of the people I had associated with for thirty years were not spiritual. In fact, the organization I was affiliated with has absolutely no restoration process for ministers that fall. That may be terrible to say, but unless in the last ten years something has changed (I’ve been out of the loop), they still do not.

“I had some ministers call me and offer prayer. I had some call and offer my spouse and children (all of who are potipharexcellent musicians and singers) a place to go to church. I was not included in that invitation. No one said anything about restoration.

“My younger brother who pastors in Birmingham, Alabama came to help our family. Friends of the family from Botswana came to help in any way that they could. Some of the church people were doing all they could to aid our family in this dire situation. The organization as a whole did nothing but write Ichabod, “the glory has departed”, over me and my family. It wasn’t just only the organization but ministers that I thought were brothers.

“I can understand the reaction to me. I committed the sin and I needed to be removed. But I do not understand the complete desertion of my family by people who consistently profess their spirituality.”

Since the time of writing this chapter of the book I have had very few encounters with spiritual folks. I had a somewhat revealing conversation with a young minister a short time ago and he said concerning preachers that have fallen,”All of the ones I have heard about do not come back, they just leave and you never hear of them again.” I guess that is the most comfortable way to handle the situation, but it is not the biblical way.

I tried to “leave and not come back” but God keeps calling me and I am grateful for the call. Ministers quote the scripture that speaks of the gifts and calling of God are without repentance (Romans 11:29). I guess they are saying they agree with that scripture but not necessarily in their church or organization.

I was astonished to find that most of the people I had associated with for thirty years were not spiritual. In fact, the organization I was affiliated with has absolutely no restoration process for ministers that fall. That may be terrible to say, but unless in the last ten years something has changed (I’ve been out of the loop), they still do not.”

What I am seeking is a complete restoration to Christ and to pulpit ministry. The word restoration means to be put back the way it was before the injury. The church world we live in today does not have a real picture of the process and the replacement of “broken” preachers, that still have a call of God in their spirit. I have met some ministers that have excepted me into their church, but did not really know what to do with me. I’m sure if you are reading this blog you know where I am coming from.

How do we “fix” the problem? Most folks that I share my story with are not aware that 19,000 ministers leave the work of God a year. Most are unaware these preachers and their families are left to wander in their own wilderness until they find a source of help, give up and let the nature of their predicament take it’s course or they stumble upon a blog or a website that offers help.

I commend every minister, that I have met through Fallenpastor.com, for the work you are doing in the restoration of pastors. Brethren do not let the enemy tell you that you are not helping. Believe me, it is a breath of fresh air to realize there are spiritual people who are doing what they can to offer help to the fallen. I am praying with you, that together we can get the word out, so every fallen pastor can find a source of help in a time of need or can find help to negate the situation before it goes too far. God bless you and your families.

Other related articles:

Restoring Fallen Pastors,” by Eric Reed

Restoring the Fallen,” by Douglas Weiss, Ph.D.

Should Fallen Pastors Be Restored?” by John MacArthur

Book: “Restoration Manual: A Workbook For Restoring Fallen Ministers and Religious Leaders,” by Thomas L. Pedigo

Fallen Pastors Can Be Restored: A Personal Tale, Part 2” by Ray Carroll

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You will be blessed by Bobby Sutton’s book, “I Slept With Potiphar’s Wife.” He approaches pastoral restoration from a first-hand account that few have ever considered. It is available from his publisher’s site or other online retailers. Please check out my review on a previous post.

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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.

3 Sources of High Expectations For Pastors

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in church leadership, church members, churches, culture, expectations, pastoring, pastors | Posted on 02-07-2014

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A 2001 Barna study shared the following information: “Church-goers expect their pastor to juggle an average of 16 major tasks. That’s a recipe for failure – nobody can handle the wide range of responsibilities that people expect pastors to master.”

That was one of the most interesting statistics I found while doing research for my book, Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World. That statistic reflects what I believe many pastors feel is the cause of killer expectations – the congregation or a controlling group of church leaders. What I discovered in writing was that blaming one side was incompatible with what was really going on in today’s churches.

Before I wrote my book, I thought I knew a lot about high expectations for pastors. I had practical experience, but it was nothing compared to what I learned after studying statistics and interviewing fallen pastors. If a pastor does not understand expectations rightly, misconstrues them, or does not have the right center, he stands the danger of burnout or worse.

Expectations come from many places. First, there are congregational expectations. What does the congregation expect out of their pastor? What did the pulpit committee tell the pastor when he was hired? Have those expectations changed as the church has grown or declined in attendance? Does the church setting make a difference? Is the church’s set of expectations based on Scripture, bylaws or any written standard that can be measured quantitatively? Do church expectations come from a leadership council or the entire congregation?

“Any idea outside of Scripture attributed to the pastor should be discussed and agreed upon between pastor and church leadership. Any unspoken or assumed expectations can be harmful for both parties.”

All of these questions can help sort out where congregational expectations come from. I had a friend in seminary who pastored a rural church that voted on whether to keep him every year. It had been in the bylaws since a pastor had fallen over six decades earlier. I know of churches who pass out pastoral satisfaction surveys on occasion.

Secondly, expectations also come from within the pastor. These are typically the strongest expectations pastors wrestle with. Pastors who are perfectionists are rarely satisfied with the job they are doing. These men often work long hours with the idea in mind that they are never quite fulfilling every need in the church. Somewhere in their brain, they perceive unmet needs among the congregation that they could be fixing or making better. They are hard workers, but without a system of realistic and Scriptural expectations, these men experience tremendous burnout.

perfectPastors can experience several things that can warp their view of expectations upon them. One is pastoral competition or self-competition. A lot of guys love to talk about numbers. When pastors meet, (they might not admit it) they intrinsically measure success by the number of people in their congregation or total budgets.

While many give lip-service to the idea that, “I’d be happy preaching to one person each Sunday,” there seems to be an innate drive to move forward to the next big thing. Even if they aren’t comparing numbers with other pastors, a lot of young pastors are taught a business model of church where moving on to the next big position is just a natural progression.

Of course, this isn’t always true. There are always exceptions and we all know of men who are content with the congregations they serve. The point is that this drive from without or within can lead to a warped view of success and high expectations.

The third place expectations come is from God. This is where high proper expectations should come from. God has a high expectation for those He calls. 1 Timothy 3:1-7 is the most common passage quoted when listing the moral qualifications for an overseer:  “If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.” (ESV)

There is discussion over some of the specific ideas in this passage, but for the most part, it is agreed that God expects His leaders to have a certain level of morality and moral leadership. Ultimately, God’s standard is the greatest standard. Any idea outside of Scripture attributed to the pastor should be discussed and agreed upon between pastor and church leadership. Any unspoken or assumed expectations can be harmful for both parties.

The warped view of high expectations (whether from congregations, from within, or both) can be seen in one of two examples, although there are surely more.

If congregations or leadership have expectations that are too high, unspoken, or unrealistic for the pastor, he can become frustrated in his duties. Despite his normal duties of teaching and preaching, he can become overwhelmed with a myriad of other tasks. He can become party to this as well if he takes on tasks without asking for help or communicating clearly to his people. Pastors who believe they can or should do everything will experience a large amount of frustration, leading to potential burnout.

Sometimes, churches are unaware they are adding to these high expectations. Many people mean well or are unsure of how to approach the pastor but can say things that come across as hurtful to the pastor: “Our old pastor didn’t do it like that,” “You only work one day a week, surely you can do more,” “Why haven’t you visited more people?” “There sure haven’t been many people here lately.” People often mean well or aren’t thinking when they make statements like this, but need to be aware of the weight their words carry. Most pastors spend all week concentrating on the church and the duties he performs and takes his job very seriously.

High expectations happen to everyone, but understanding their source is of great importance. Pastoral/Church communication about correct expectations can prevent church disappointment, pastoral burnout but can also promote proper church health and focus on Christ’s community and everyone’s role within it.

Other helpful articles about pastor expectations:

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

What Are Pastors Supposed to Do For You?” by Mark D. Roberts

Your Pastor is Only Human! Here’s What He Wants You To Know” by Tim Franklin

Look at These Expectations on a Pastor’s Time. Then Take a Day Off.” by Trend Watch

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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.

Could Your Church Survive Without You?

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in burnout, church, church members, churches, expectations, leadership, ministry, pastoral care, pastoring, pastors, prevention, responsibility, rest | Posted on 06-05-2014

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It’s a question for all pastors. And think about it for a minute before you answer: “Could your church survive without you for two panicweeks?

Your immediate, heart-felt response is your honest answer. If it’s “yes,” you probably don’t have much to worry about. But you might want to keep reading because there might be something here for you.

If you shrugged a little and thought, “maybe,” or said a firm, “no,” then there are a few things you might want to consider.

I don’t want to discount the fact that pastoring is a very difficult job. And when a minister has been at a church for a while and has things running well, has it fine-tuned, and knows the people, it’s can feel like a well-oiled machine. It can really feel that way when the pastor has taken on responsibilities that no one else will do or he’s started programs that only he knows the inner workings of.

A minister can even feel more irreplaceable when he has done things that he feels no one else will do. For instance, I know small church pastors who clean toilets. Who wants to do that? I know mega-church pastors who are so well-connected in their state and national conventions that they feel they are at the top of their game. No one in their church could do that kind of thing.

When we’re pastoring, we do a lot of tasks that are difficult and unseen. We visit the sick, we hold the hands of the dying, we visit people in prison, we pray for the lost, we counsel members going through difficult situations – things people never hear about. And that’s fine. But pastors are often frustrated by complaints of, “Why didn’t you visit my aunt when she had her knee surgery?

It’s a difficult job to keep up with so much and to stay on top of the preaching of the Word.

And don’t get me wrong. Most pastors are extremely valued by their churches. I post a lot of statistics on here about ministry burnout and cautious warnings about failure. But ministers are in the ministry because they love Christ and they love people.

pastorsignBut there is something to remember for all of us –  especially those who minister. We are not irreplaceable.

When I wrote my book about fallen pastors, I found four factors that weakened ministers that led them to consider adultery. One was unrealistic expectations. Most of those unrealistic expectations come from the minister himself. Over time, a pastor gets so locked in to performing the act of routine ministry that he loses sight of personal worship, his family, and chasing after Christ. He can also begin to inflate his own self-importance within the church.

It doesn’t happen to everyone. But it’s slow and seductive. It can very mildly with thoughts like, “Look at all I do and I don’t get any appreciation for it,” “These people don’t ever thank me,” “All I do is bust my rear end around here and people just complain and nag,” “I can’t even remember the last time I got a raise. I’d be happy with a thank you card.”

There may even be some truth in those statements. But behind them is bitterness. Bitterness stems from anger. But who are we angry with? The ministry? The church? God? Ourselves? When we find ourselves in such a place, it’s a good time to return to God and His Word and begin asking questions of ourselves.

That’s why the question, “Could your church survive without you for two weeks?” is so important. Because the answer is, “yes.”

I remember having some of those same thoughts I just listed. I know a lot of pastors feel that same way. And in moments of anger, there were times I would answer that question, “No, they couldn’t. Who would put together the bulletin, make phone calls, make visits, preach the sermons, counsel, etc.?

In my case, it was frustration. I remember reaching out to a mentor of mine and sharing my feelings with him. He said, “Ray, every pastor I burnedoutknow has felt the same way. What you need to do is let go of trying so hard. You have to let go of trying to let programs fix everything. Just use the Word of God and concentrate on those who want to grow. Christ said He would grow the church. You’re trying to do it for Him.”

He was right. That’s what I did. Not only did it work, but it took a great weight off me.

What would happen if you were gone for two weeks? The church would function. Even if you were gone tomorrow, it would function. You are there by appointment from God. There to minister the Word of God into the lives of the people. Allow Him to work through you. I promise He doesn’t want you burned out, stressed, screaming, angry, full of anguish, and preaching with venom every week.

He promised us peace. Live in it and share it with those in your fellowship.

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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.

Your Church Already Has A Plan To Deal With Adultery

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, bitterness, burnout, church, church leadership, church members, churches, fallenness, forgiveness, hurt, pastors, prevention, reconciliation, repentance, restoration, sin | Posted on 16-04-2014

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planYou may not be aware of this, but your church already has a plan to deal with adultery or any other major crisis. It does. On this site, I primarily deal with the crisis of a pastor leaving when he’s caught in adultery, so I’m going to deal with that.

Churches today are finding themselves in this situation more and more. The statistic gets thrown around that 1,500 pastors a month leave the ministry due to conflict, burnout or moral failure. Think that statistic is shocking? I have a lot more on this blog and more in my book.

But your church leadership has a plan ready to go whether they realize it or not.

Think of it like this. This morning, you woke up, got out of bed and brushed your teeth (I hope). You did a bunch of other things in order to face the world. You ate breakfast (maybe), got dressed, took a shower, put on some clothes, and got in your vehicle.

Somewhere in your day, you had to adapt to something. Let’s say unexpectedly, on your way to work, a squirrel ran out in front of your car. (What is it with me and squirrels on this blog?) You had a split second decision to make. Do you swerve and possibly hit that mailbox? Do you slam on the brakes and spill your coffee? Do you keep going as the squirrel darts frantically in several directions as it decides which way to go?

You see, suddenly, you realize you have a plan in place, embedded in your mind on how to deal with squirrels that run out in squirrel5front of your car. It’s instinctual. Most everything we do in life is that way. We just roll along, reacting. When things come at us, we react. What are those reactions based on? Lots of things. They’re based on our worldview, how we’ve seen other people deal with things before, the expectations of others, and how we’ve dealt with them in the past.

What happens when we are in a church and we find out that the pastor has been committing adultery?

From experience, I can tell you that the endgame goes one of four ways.

The pastor is often fired immediately and kicked to the curb. He’s gone. Not much discussion to be had because he’s sinned and he needs to go. Those are the consequences of his actions.

The other thing I’ve seen is that the church leadership finds out and decides not to tell the congregation. They put the pastor on “sabbatical leave“. This means he and his wife go to counseling for a few months and come back and he returns to the pulpit. Honestly, this doesn’t do much to fix the man’s relationship with Christ or his wife.

pulpit2The next way I’ve seen it play out is that the pastor confesses his sin and is allowed to stay on as pastor. The congregation sees what they see is true repentance and doesn’t see a need for him to go. This keeps a man who is very troubled in the pulpit without considering that he might need to step down for a while to get serious help.

The final way is for the church to recognize he needs help. He cannot remain the pastor, but he is also a member of that local body of believers. They follow the wisdom of Galatians 6:1 and desire to restore him to Christ. He’s given a severance package that includes intensive counseling which hopefully involves going to a place that can help restore him to Christ. The church, made up of godly leadership does all they can do with a pastor who desires repentance from this sin he has committed.

These are things I’ve been covering in my past few blog posts.

What I’m saying is that we are all wired to react. We all have a plan in our minds of how we would handle this situation. The problem is that most of us don’t have the right and biblical response wired in our minds. Instead, our first instinct is one of immense hurt.

What do we often do when people hurt us? We respond by acting out to hurt them like they’ve hurt us. It’s a very human response. But as hard as it may be, we are to be better than that. If the pastor has any hope of restoration and has any signs whatsoever of repentance, we are to chase him down and get him help. He’s one of us. He is a brother in Christ who needs us. He has fallen far and needs hope.

If we don’t get our hurt in check, it quickly turns into anger. Do you see how the plan that we innately have in place can quickly get out of hand? The passions of our hearts can quickly move away from the biblical response we should be having.

It’s not easy, I know that. Being a strong biblical leader in the midst of horrible news like that requires grace, mercy and patience. It takes every ounce of Christ like love. It takes discernment to know if the pastor is being truly repentant. He may rebuff every effort you make at asking him to repent. If that’s the case, the saddest thing is letting him go his own way.

But if he has any sliver of hope that he wants to repent, we are to treat him like the prodigal son. We are to love person pewhim as a wayward brother in Christ and get him the help he needs. Are we to welcome him right back into the pulpit? No. But we are to get him and his family immediate help so that this man will not be destroyed.

There are organizations within denominations that offer help for men who have fallen and want to be restored to Christ. I’m working on finding a way to get a list of them together so that people can find them in an more efficient manner.

If you are one of those organizations and want to be listed here or make yourselves known, please contact me so churches and fallen pastors can find you.

Let’s start looking at our plans before our pastors fall. Better yet, lets prevent these falls before they happen. I can come speak anywhere to talk about the dangers that pastors face. If not me, I know others who would be happy to talk about the pitfalls that pastors face on a daily basis that can weaken them.

It’s time to face these issues before they become a calamity in our local churches. Let’s start working together to make this problem a thing of the past. Let’s take that number of 1,500 a month and get it as close to zero as possible. But it will take local churches, church leaders, associational directors, local bishops, denominational leaders, and the people in the pews to make it happen.

I get an email each day from a fallen pastor, a church that needs help, a woman who is having an affair with a pastor, or a pastor’s wife who has just discovered her husband has been unfaithful. I minister to each of these people regularly and lovingly. It’s what I do. It’s heartbreaking, but I love that God has called me to it.

But I would find so much joy to be able to find a way to prevent it all from happening in the first place.

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

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

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

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

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