Category Archives: churches

How Capshaw Church Forgave a Fallen Pastor

In the last two blog posts, I have been recalling one of the most memorable moments of this fledgling ministry – a church that came together to reconcile with one of their former pastors who had committed adultery. (part 1, part 2) Brandon Watkins, a former pastor had committed adultery and had reached out to me through my ministry and asked that I go with him to his former church for a reconciliation service. What we found there, we could not have conceived.

Capshaw Church in Huntsville, Alabama, pastored by Zach Terry, did something that is rare these days, but shouldn’t be.zach

They reached out to their former worship leader, Brandon Watkins, and gave him the chance to say he was sorry and they forgave. It was an amazing moment. I reached out to Bro. Zach Terry and interviewed him about this rare experience and our email exchange follows.

I also want you to know that if you are a church and your former pastor has repented and been on the path of restoration, follow Capshaw Church’s lead and reach out. Allow the circle of grace, forgiveness and reconciliation to be complete.

FP:  Why did you decide to reconcile with Brandon now?

ZT: I believed that there had to be sufficient time to say with confidence that Brandon was, “bearing fruit in keeping with repentance.” While we can never be certain of another person’s heart decisions, his decisions looked more and more like those of a repentant man. This had been the case progressively for several months.

FP: What were some things that were difficult for you and the church in the past few years?

ZT: Some people left the visible church entirely – jaded that a Pastor could have committed such sin.  Some capitalized on Brandon’s sin and used it to leverage control on current staff members under the guise of accountability – this was rare, but it did happen. Beyond that, there was the typical hurt and disappointment that comes when the reality of sin is revealed.

FP: Did Brandon’s return for the reconciliation reopen old wounds? Overall, was it helpful for the church?

ZT: It was one of the most healing things we’ve ever done. It think by the time it was complete everyone experienced healing and grace; there were no older brothers outside the camp.

FP: What was the process you followed in putting this together or was this new to you?

ZT: It was totally new to me. We learned as we went. Basically, it looked something like this:

  • I stayed in contact with Brandon, talking on a monthly basis for over two years.
  • For about six months, Brandon and I talked about the possibility of him returning for such a service.
  • Brandon consulted with all of his counselors and friends to see if they believed he was healthy enough to take this step.
  • I met with the leadership body of my church to get their approval on the service.
  • I met with those who had worked most closely with Brandon to discuss the service.
  • I met with those who raised concerns privately to work through their issues.
  • We planned and promoted the event.

FP: Does reconciliation mean restoration to you?

ZT: I do not believe Brandon would ever be able to return to the office of Worship Pastor at Capshaw. The sins he has committed will haunt him here and the reproach would probably never die. I believe it may be possible for Brandon to lead worship again in a different city, if his spiritual health continues to progress. That would be up to the local congregation to discern in my opinion.


To be frank, grace is awkward. Grace is messy at times; I’m sure we didn’t get it all right and perfectly dot every “i” and cross every “t.” But as dangerous, messy and awkward as grace sometimes is – GRACE IS GOOD.”


FP: As a pastor, what were some important things you stressed to the congregation? What did you want your congregation to learn?

ZT: I stressed the stark reality of grace – on a practical level. I stressed the fact that there are no guarantees given to a congregation when it shows grace. There is no way for me to prove infallibly that Brandon is repentant, therefore there is always a measure of risk involved in grace.

img_3501To be frank, grace is awkward – Brandon’s return made some people uncomfortable. Grace is messy at times; I’m sure we didn’t get it all right and perfectly dot every “i” and cross every “t.” But as dangerous, messy and awkward as grace sometimes is – GRACE IS GOOD.

FP: How would a church know if they are ready to do this sort of thing with a former pastor?

ZT: I think you get to a point that you realize it would be a sin NOT to reconcile. If the former Pastor is repentant and time has seemed to prove that fact – then you will find yourself feeling guilty every time you ask God for grace while simultaneously refusing to extend it. It is then that you know it’s time to officially reconcile.

FP: What surprised you about the reconciliation?

ZT: I was surprised that not everyone was in favor of the decision to reconcile publicly. A few had some strong emotions to work through. Specifically, it was difficult for some to see Brandon publicly sing again. Some wanted Brandon to publicly and verbally repent but thought that he should not be allowed to sing. We had to work through the concept that singing is simply thoughts set to melody. I proposed that if we were to allow Brandon to speak the words, but not sing them, we would be elevating the talent of singing to an unbiblical place.

It was very important to me that Brandon be invited to sing at the conclusion of the service. I felt that there was no better way for us to communicate the gravity of grace than to allow him this opportunity. I had not planned to say this, but it occurred to me as I brought Brandon up for the final song that, “Angels can sing the glory of God, but only a repentant man can sing the grace of God.


 I felt like this was a once in a lifetime opportunity to show the world that grace and its effect is just as real as sin. I had often quoted others who said, “your repentance needs to be as broad as your sin.” The only way for that to happen for Brandon was to allow him a very public forum to apologize and seek forgiveness.”


FP: What did you learn about your church?

ZT: I learned that the overwhelming majority of people in my church are HUGE fans of grace. I learned how much love they had for a fallen brother. I learned the power of leading with grace.

FP: What was at the heart of all of this? What I mean is, this doesn’t happen. Why Capshaw? Why even try when you knew people might have old wounds opened? Was there a moment you thought it might be a bad idea?

ZT: In 2012 we saw that sin and its effects are real. I felt like this was a once in a lifetime opportunity to show the world that grace and its effect is just as real as sin. I had often quoted others who said, “your repentance needs to be as broad as your sin.The only way for that to happen for Brandon was to allow him a very public forum to apologize and seek forgiveness.

FP: You and Brandon have been friends for a long time. Did that make it easier or more difficult?

ZT: I’ve always been harder on Brandon because of our friendship. I think our friendship caused me to perhaps go slower. I feel like I know him better than most and I could tell when he wasn’t being legit and when he was.

FP: What parts of your specific experience in reconciling with Brandon would you pass on to churches who want to do this?

ZT: Celebrate like Jesus! Jesus is the shepherd who celebrated over the one recovered sheep more than over the ninety nine who never strayed. Jesus is the prodigal’s father who throws a party at the return of his lost son. Baptize a reconciliation service in the spirit of celebration. If there was ever an occasion for a Baptist buffet – this is it.

Zach Terry is the Senior Pastor of Capshaw Church. He preaches there on a weekly basis as well as speaking at conferences and events. He is the author of, “Our Spiritual Battlefield. ” Zach and his wife Julie have three children – Carly, Cole and Caitlyn. They all live in Athens, Alabama where Zach is finishing up his Master of Divinity with The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary this summer.

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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 Blueprint for Pastoral Reconciliation, Pt. 2

A couple of weekends ago, I saw something transformative. It’s something I hope begins to happen in churches across the country whose pastor has previously fallen to adultery or any other sin. You can catch up on the details by reading my last blog – but understand that what I and the other people present at Capshaw Church in Huntsville, Alabama witnessed was a moment of phenomenal brandon02grace.

Brandon Watkins committed adultery over two years ago when he was serving as the worship leader. In those two years, he has been on the path of restoration. He is still on that path and has some way to go. But the pastor, Zach Terry, who is also a long-time friend of Brandon’s, has been involved in his restoration.

Zach felt it was time for Brandon to come back to Capshaw Baptist and be able to apologize and feel reconciliation with those he harmed. Brandon had called me and invited me to go along. I had hoped for a kind, gracious process. What happened was a Christ-centered moment where forgiveness took center stage.

Brandon met with his former worship team on Saturday night and answered a lot of questions. When a pastor falls, people have a lot of unresolved issues. There are a lot of open wounds. It was a time of healing for those involved. On Sunday morning, Zach talked to the congregation about grace. He talked about how he had told the church two years ago they would need to start “storing up grace” for when Brandon returned desiring forgiveness. He told the congregation that now was the time to release that grace.

Zach interviewed Brandon on stage and I can’t do it justice. Here’s the audio link. What I really can’t describe is Zach’s ability to share grace and describe the love of Christ during this process. I can’t convey Brandon’s brokenness and heart to reconcile. I really can’t tell you how it felt to hear Brandon sing when the service was over.

After the service, people came up to Brandon and I got to hear them say gracious things to him and have a chance to have their hearts brandon01healed to one another.

I cannot tell you enough that this is what our churches need across this country. I have been doing this ministry for five years and have heard fallen pastors who have been restored back to Christ say, “I just want to have a chance to tell my former church how sorry I am. I want to be able to stand before them and tell them that.

However, we are guarded. We feel like we are opening an old wound if we do that. But it’s reconciliation. It is part of being the people of God who welcome back the prodigal. Again, I’m not asking churches to bring a pastor back to preach or be in the ministry. I’m asking them to use what Capshaw did as a blueprint to have a time of healing.

Don’t think you can do it? In the next blog post, I have an interview with Zach Terry, pastor of Capshaw Baptist Church. He has some amazing insights on the process that occurred and how it changed him and his church. Soon, I’ll be posting an interview with Brandon about how it effected him.

Churches, pastors, leaders – I cannot tell you enough how the circle of forgiveness needs to be closed by this act of reconciliation. Please consider it. And contact me with any questions.

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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 Blueprint For Pastoral Reconciliation, Pt. 1

Two weekends ago, I had the honor of accompanying my friend, Brandon Watkins, back to capshaw1his home church, Capshaw Church in Huntsville, Alabama.

Several years ago, Brandon committed adultery while he served as the music leader there. I was preaching at Buck Run Baptist Church one Sunday and met Brandon’s mother and sister who told me about Brandon. They told me that he had just fallen from the ministry.

They gave me his address and phone number and begged me to reach out to him. I sent him a copy of my book, which I learned later that he promptly threw into to the trash can. However, I kept emailing Brandon. I texted him once in a while.

I would say, “Hey, Brandon, I want you to know that I don’t judge you. I love you. I’m here for you. I just want to listen. If you ever want to talk, I’ve been through it before.” I kept sending messages like that.

Six months later, he called me. He had fallen and he had fallen far. I won’t recall it all here, but Brandon had been through one of the worst falls I had ever seen. But I treated him like I treat any fallen pastor. I treat them like Jesus would treat them – with patience, love, and kindness. Like a prodigal. Knowing that if they are saved, they will come around and that someday, they will need someone to talk to.

There was a day Brandon needed someone to talk to. We’ve been talking for two years now. He’s been through some tough times. And I love him. I love him warts and all. I have heard his stories, his brokenness, his fallenness, his desperation, his anger, his hurt, his pain, his anger toward God, his relationship problems, his frustrations about life, and his daily life struggles. Know what? That’s the life of a fallen pastor.

I love Brandon with all of my heart. I would take a bullet for him.

brandonI finally got to meet him one day and it was the first time I got to meet someone I was helping. It made my heart soar. He just talked to me like a man who had the same problems I had. And we connected.

We are friends.

When I started this blog five years ago, I did it because there was no real help for fallen pastors. There were a few places pastors could go, but it wasn’t apparent. A publisher contacted me and asked me to write a book and I did. It’s helped a lot of people. I told someone recently, “When my Amazon sales go up, I get a little sad, because that means that a pastor has fallen.”

Most people who contact me I give them help and I never hear from them again. I send them off to another ministry who can help them further or I am able to answer a question. Most of the questions I get are from fallen pastors wives or from the women who pastors cheat with. They need a lot of help and I’m happy to help them. That’s why this ministry exists. To help anyone who needs comfort.

I help churches whose pastors have fallen. They contact me and I give them advice because they weren’t equipped to handle a ministry failure. That’s why I’m here.

But Brandon has been with me for two years. And two weekends ago, the church where he fell from did something amazing.

No, I take that back. Amazing isn’t the word. That’s a cheap word. They did something that I have only heard of once.

The pastor of Capshaw Baptist Church, Zach Terry, decided to bring Brandon back to reconcile him before the congregation.

Wrap your mind around that for a moment. Many of you who are reading this have known a pastor who cheated while at your church. What happened? The church kicked him out. That’s what happened to me. But that’s not the biblical standard. The pastor is a member of the body of Christ. Does he deserve to be restored to pastoral ministry? Maybe not. But if he is restored to Christ, then he does deserve to have a day where he can say, “I’m sorry,” before the church where he sinned.

It’s good for that church. It’s good for the congregation. It’s good to heal those open wounds.

This week, I’m going to talk about what happened at Capshaw Baptist Church in Huntsville, Alabama. And why it should be a blueprint for reconciling fallen pastors to the churches where they fell – when they have been restored back to Christ.

It will heal the congregation. It is what is necessary for biblical forgiveness. It will heal a church. It will change lives in your congregation, pastor. Don’t let the sins of the past dwell in the past. Open your heart to the forgiveness that has happened in the life of those who have fallen and who have been restored to Christ.

You will find rest for your congregation. You will find amazing grace. You will find revival.

Helpful articles:

From my old, anonymous blog: “Reconciling With a Fallen Pastor: Before Your Pastor Falls

Reconciling With a Fallen Pastor: Why Reconcile at All?

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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 Reasons To Rethink The Pulpit Committee

I’ve been out of ministry for over five years now and it had helped give me a refreshing insight to some of the things we do as churches.

I still have a lot of pastor friends out there in the trenches. We have a lot of topics we discuss that seem to be cultural issues within the church committeethat have been problematic for some time.

One of these issues is the hiring process for pastors. Many churches don’t have a hiring process. But churches outside of denominations that have a system of bishops often employ the use of pulpit committees.

I’d like to call into question the typical use of pulpit committees and ask whether they are still effective. In the sense in which I’m asking, I’m talking about churches who have never stopped to question the “why” and “how” of their pulpit committee. Those churches who have no decided strategy on calling a pastor other than looking at his resume and qualifications.

It’s an important question to ask – actually, there are several important to questions to ask:

1. Who should be on the pulpit committee?

Pulpit committees are typically made up of a couple of church leaders, a trustee, a younger person, a member of the church who has been there for a while, and someone the church views as “very spiritual.” Now, I’m speaking in generalities here, because each church employs their own strategy. Some churches might have a staff-oriented view where the church leadership makes the decision. Some might employ a member from each committee from the church. Others might invite people from different age groups to sit in on the committee.

The real question is, “Who is qualified to choose the next pastor?” Many would say, “God should choose our next pastor.” Of course, but who in the church will dedicate themselves to the practice of prayer and discernment in order to reach that goal?

2. What qualifications should matter?

I’ve seen so many different ways for a church to choose a resume to look at. I saw a church receive 500 resumes. They then took a questionnaire about what the church members wanted in a pastor (ie., “What age should he be?” “What should his education be?” “How many children should he have?“) They narrowed down the results to the most popular in each category. They were able to get rid of all but 8 resumes. They were left with eight 50-something year old pastors with at least 15 years experience with at least two children, a seminary degree, who loved to preach, was willing to visit the elderly on a regular basis, and met at least 20 other specific categories.

I’ve also seen churches measure the success of a man by his education. I’ve also seen them decide education interfered terribly with spiritual development.

I’m reminded of God selecting David as King of Israel. David wasn’t even on the radar of men for the choice, but he was God’s choice. I understand that the analogy can break down at points, but there is a kernel of truth for us. If we don’t have spiritual discernment about a pastor and if we aren’t willing to look beyond his resume and look into his journey, we may miss some joy.

3. How are we going to ultimately choose a pastor?

Let me relate two stories to you. I saw a church pick out the perfect pastor for them. His resume was sharp, his interview was great, and his family looked awesome. His sermon in view of a call was outstanding. The pulpit committee had done their research, done several interviews, called his references, and been very thorough. He stayed there for a few years and moved on. Was it successful? I can’t measure that. But that happens all across America in churches every year.

lotsNow let me tell you this story which may unnerve you a bit. I have a friend who goes to a Brethren church. If you aren’t familiar with the Brethren, they have Mennonite beliefs. They don’t practice the outward dressing lifestyle like Mennonites, but they have Reformed theology. They are big into sovereignty.  Every two years, they rotate in their new elders. My friend was up to be considered as an elder.

For the election, they cast lots. Yes. They cast lots. Biblical? Absolutely, look it up. There were four worthy men to take two extra elder positions. They held a solemn ceremony where four Bibles were placed on an altar and in each of them was a piece of paper. On two of them were black dots. Each man was to choose a Bible. If they got the black dot, they were an elder.

When my friend was describing this to me, I said, “Are you serious? How can you leave it up to chance like that?

He said, “We believe God is sovereign. All four men are qualified. If God is in control of all things, the right men will choose the right Bibles.

Now, you’re probably not going to be choosing your pastor that way. But those are two ends of the spectrum. How we decide to choose church leadership is important. And it’s important for us to know why we chose our leadership that way.

Ultimately, the way we choose our leadership needs to be biblical. It needs to be dependent upon God. It needs to factor out our personal feelings about what we think the church needs and what God wants for our fellowship.

I can’t tell you how many times over the past five years I’ve seen a church fire a 40-year old pastor to either hire someone just like him or someone his exact opposite. That’s why returning our hearts to God and looking among the luggage is so important when we are looking for a leader. We might just be surprised.

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Other help:

Book: In Search of God’s Man: A Help for Pulpit Committees, by Douglas Devore

Helps for Pulpit Committees, by David Cox

The Top 5 Mistakes of Pulpit Committees, by Baptist Bulletin

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.

 

Too Many Fallen Pastors: A Call For Reformation

Since my own fall from ministry five years ago, I have been ministering to fallen pastors, their churches, their wives, the women they have been involved with, their families, and others. I’m always happy to see people restored back to Christ, yet I am still discouraged by the stories of discernmentinfidelity in the ministry, pastoral suicide and burnout, and divorce in the ministry.

I affirm as always that infidelity is a choice people make. It is also a place no one arrives at in a vacuum. Pastors and ministers are under terrible pressure and it doesn’t seem to be getting any better. Something needs to change. Reformation needs to occur in many places so these stories will stop. There is an epidemic and all of us can do something to make things change.

Here are some of the issues and some suggestions to get started:

Pastors

Church Leaders

  • Church leaders need to be ready and trained for a church crisis.
  • Church leaders should know the potential areas of weakness in the lives of their pastor.
  • Church leaders should be involved in the mentoring and spiritual well-being of their pastor.
  • When a pastor does fall, while it is difficult, it is on the leaders to remain faithful to the words of Scripture in handling sin and the sinner in the most Christ-like manner, while also ministering to the congregation.
  • Make sure that when a pastor falls, there are many people involved: The pastor’s wife, the woman he was involved with (possibly a church member or staff member), his family, the congregation. Wisdom and discernment are very important.
  • When a pastor falls, understand that the community is watching to see how the church is going to treat a fallen sinner.

Church Members

  • Church members should always be spiritually supportive of their church leaders through prayer.
  • When conflict arises, brothers and sisters in Christ should always approach one another in love and understanding, seeking victory in Christ.
  • When a pastor falls, be ready to wait for the truth and not gossip. Be ready to pray for those involved and forgive.

To this list, I would add two things. First, if you have already fallen or have been hurt, that’s why this ministry exists. To help you. You’re not alone. Life isn’t over.

Secondly, if you are a pastor or church leader who wants to see this stop, this ministry exists for you as well. I’ve linked to several previous blog articles for help and I will also answer direct questions. I’m available to speak to any size group.

What I do know is that this epidemic has to stop. We can each do what it takes to stop it. There is no one person to point the finger at to blame. We all have a role to play in stopping the scourge of ministry failure.

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.

When a Pastor Falls, 3: What’s the Right Way to Respond?

This series is designed to help church leaders have a broad concept on how to handle the situation when their pastor has been accused of moral failure. Not all situations are the same, but the response should always be one of love, grace and truth. When the pastor falls, there is a difference between a biblical and unethical response.

Take time to catch up on parts one and two before reading today’s post.

The Church’s Response to the Pastor’s Sin

ashamedpThis post assumes you’ve sat down with the pastor and you know he has committed a sexual sin. He’s either admitted to adultery or you are convinced he has and you have the evidence. In my last post, I quoted Dr. Hershael York (I strongly encourage you to go back and read that quote) who said that the church’s response should be guided by how the pastor reacts. (Dr. York’s quote and other ways to handle a pastor’s reaction are also found in my book.)

At this moment, the pastor has forfeit his right to shepherd the church. He was appointed to be the pastor of a congregation under the guidelines of 1 Timothy 3 and he has lost the trust of the congregation. I am of the belief that in the overwhelming majority of cases, the church should be informed of the sin.

A couple of important things need to be remembered. First if your pastor shows any sign of repentance he needs to be restored. I’m not talking about being restored to ministry. That’s something that is so far off that it’s not even in the conversation at this point. He needs to be restored to Christ and his family. And as a member of your congregation, it is upon you to find him help. Does he need to remain at your church? Probably not. But he is a member of your local body of believers and I don’t believe it is Scripturally acceptable to kick the man to the curb if he is showing any sign of repentance.

Find a program, counselor, group, or organization that can get him help. There are several out there. Check with your denomination. Check out pirministries.org. Give him severance pay so that he can find a way beyond what has just happened and have hope. Remember that this man has sinned. Has he hurt you? Absolutely. But we are commanded to treat one another with love and restore one another to Christ.

I also remind churches that the world is watching how we will react to a sinner in our midst. This time, the sinner is the pastor. What will we do with a man who just got caught and is asking for forgiveness and is showing some level of repentance? The unbelieving world is watching how we treat those in our midst and how we treat one another.

How NOT to Respond to Your Pastor’s Sin

I think the most horrifying decision I see is when churches decide to cover up the sin. I don’t think a lot of the churches think of it that way. What I usually hear from church leaders is, “Are we doing anyone a favor when we throw him out? Isn’t it enough that we know he’s sinned? He’s repented to God and to us. Isn’t that enough?”

No, it’s not enough. I’ve blogged about it here extensively and mentioned it a few paragraphs ago. When a pastor falls, he has hidingsinned against God and he needs to make that right. But he has violated the trust of every church member in his care. He has (at least for a while) forfeit his right to hold the office of overseer.

When a church leadership team along with the pastor decides that the church “doesn’t need to know,” they are making a mistake that has repercussions that are sinful and will come to bear in many ways.

First, their decision often does not take into account the pain that the wife of the pastor is enduring. It is the case that many times the church leadership will tell the pastor, “You’ve sinned, but you can stay. But you and your wife need to take six months off for counseling.” Guess what? Six months doesn’t fix it. In my experience, the wife still has trust issues and after her husband returns to the pulpit, she watches him in that position of authority and asks, “How can he be preaching while our marriage is still in so much trouble?

On top of that, six months really doesn’t fix him either. Restoration takes a very long time to fix a man whose relationship to Christ was so broken that he committed adultery. After that, then he can work on his marriage.

Second, when I talk to churches about their decision to retain the pastor, I will almost always eventually hear, “Well, if he leaves, we’re going to lose a lot of people. He sure brought a lot of people here and they’ll leave if he leaves.” I cannot imagine a more selfish, man-centered response. The leadership is really saying one of two things (if you care to read between the lines): “We can’t do the Scriptural thing because our attendance will decline. Membership numbers are more important than standing by doing what is right.” Or, the more frightening alternative: “We can’t get rid of him, the offering will be lighter.

When I counsel pastors who have committed adultery and haven’t told anyone, they are very worried about losing their jobs. Of course they are. It’s scary. It’s usually the only job we have. It’s what we spent our lives training for. And if we lose it, what are we going to do? But it’s a consequence of our sin. We knew that when we crossed the line.

directionBut there’s always hope. I always tell guys, “You know what? Telling people the truth and being honest is always the right thing to do. It’s not easy, in fact, it hurts. But I can promise you that God always helps and stands by those who make the decision to start walking again in the right direction.

Third, when church leadership decides to hide the truth from the congregation, it doesn’t stay hidden. It will eventually come out. It may come out a year later or I’ve seen it come out 20 years later. But the truth comes out. And the members say, “Why didn’t you tell us? Why would you allow our pastor who committed adultery to keep preaching? Don’t you think we deserved to be informed?”

Still, some of you are unconvinced. The church needs to know. And a wise, loving, caring leadership with a biblically based message can share the truth of what the pastor did in the right way. Moreover, the leadership will have a team of people or experts on hand to help the congregation through it all.

Worse yet, when you hide such a thing from the congregation, you’re keeping a secret from everyone. You’re asking every leaders, the pastor’s spouse, his family, those involved, and anyone else who knows to keep quiet. You’re telling them to keep this horrible secret to themselves and never talk about it to anyone. To push down the hurt, pain and grief over a sin that needs to be dealt with.

It’s just not right. And that’s why church leadership needs to be trained in this before it happens. That’s why they need to know how to handle this situation beforehand. Lovingly, with wisdom. They need to know what resources exist. They need to be able to discuss openly with one another how they would deal with such an ordeal if it ever occurred.

Pray to God it never would. But be prepared if it does. Because if it does, people’s hearts need to be protected. Individuals need to be counseled and healed. A pastor and his family need to be embraced. And the truth of God needs to be uncompromising.

Next time, we will look at the post-pastor fallout and how to deal with the church members.

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

____________________________

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

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

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

When a Pastor Falls, pt. 2: Confronting the Pastor

This series is about how church leadership can effectively handle the fall of their pastor when he has been accused of sexual Three businessmen having meeting in officeimmorality. It is a horrible situation for any church to find themselves in. It is seemingly a no-win situation for anyone. But it is a situation that more and more churches find themselves in. I am a fallen pastor and over the past four years, I have counseled many fallen ministers and hurt churches and I hope to help others find a way through this process that creates healing for all involved. When a pastor falls, what is the best way to confront him?

Please take time to read part one here. Today, we will focus on meeting with the minister after all the facts have been gathered, the pastor’s response, and how to minister to the fallen pastor’s spouse.

Meeting With the Minister

There are two situations you could be facing when you meet with him. You’ll either have evidence of his adultery or you won’t. Either way, what should you do? I suggest you have a straightforward meeting. It’s not the time for any type of mind games. Always remember that God is in control of every situation. If there’s sin involved, God is always at work and will be the one to take care of it.

Before the pastor arrives, make sure the church leadership is on the same page about what you’re going to discuss. If there is any disagreement whatsoever about how to handle the meeting, take care of it before the pastor arrives. The church leadership needs to be of one mind and heart before the meeting takes place.

Agree that this is not an angry confrontation. This is a meeting among brothers in Christ. There are two things to always remember. First, how would you want to be treated if you were the one being confronted about a possible sin in your life? Second, always remember Galatians 6:1: “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.

upsetIt’s best if just one leader does most of the talking so you can stay on point. You’ll probably know which of you is best suited for the job. If you don’t think any of you are able to do it, ask an outside mediator to help. A pastor from another church you trust, an associational director, or a strong Christian from the community.

Then, it’s time for the meeting. If you don’t have any physical evidence, share with him what you do have then let him speak. If you have evidence, let it be addressed.

The Pastor’s Reaction

I’ve been blogging here for four years. I’ve been talking to fallen pastors for the same amount of time. There are all kinds of pastors out there. When a pastor falls, it’s always a shock. Sometimes a pastor falls and the church can’t believe such a wonderful man of God could do such a thing, but he’s been committing adultery behind his wife and the church’s back for ten years. I’ve talked to churches whose pastor had kids with other women years ago and no one knew about it.

What I’m saying is that each situation is different. And when you sit down to talk to your pastor about suspected sexual immorality, he may be completely innocent. Then again, the man you are talking to may have been putting on a front for years that you have been fooled by. I got away with it for a few months. Some get away with it for years. In some ways, all of us know how to put up a front and keep people from knowing who we really are.

When you sit down and confront a pastor about his sin, he may break down and confess everything. He may have been wanting to get caught. But some will flat out deny everything. Even if you have the most compelling evidence in the world, they may lie and try to talk their way out of it. They may say, “Well, I was involved emotionally with someone.” Or they might say, “Whoever gave you that information is crazy. How long have you known me?”

That’s why this calls for discernment on the part of church leadership. That’s why you have to have your information together. That’s why when you talk to the minister about this, you have to gauge his reaction carefully. You should be able to tell pretty quickly whether he is involved in sin. It should be apparent to everyone in the room. And whatever response he gives, it needs to be handled with love, grace and compassion.

The Proper Response

I’m going to write more later about how church leadership should handle the pastor when sexual immorality is confirmed, but I defensivewant to share this quote from Dr. Hershael York. He’s the preaching professor at Southern Seminary and runs an excellent site at pastorwell.com. I interviewed him for my book and asked him how a church should respond to a pastor when they find out about his sin. When should they help him recover and get him counseling and when should they just let him go? Here’s what he said:

“A church’s posture has to be guided by whether or not there is repentance, because your posture has to be one thing if a person is living in defiance and embracing their sin. Then you have to confront. 1 Corinthians 5 kicks in and Paul describes as turning them over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh. There’s nothing pretty about that. But if a person is broken and repentant over their sin, even if they want to be and they’re not there yet, but they want to be.

“They may say, ‘It’s hard for me to leave this 23 year old girl who thinks I hung the moon and go back to a wife I struggled with for the past 20 years, but I want to do that because it honors the Lord.’ Well, if a guy says that, then by all means, you’ve got to walk that walk with him, or see that someone does. Because sometimes the unity of the church matters too and the leaders in the church have to take care of the church but what they cannot do is just abandon the one in sin and say, ‘Well, you’re on your own.’”

The Pastor’s Wife

upsetwomanNot to be forgotten about in all of this is the pastor’s wife and his family. When a pastor is caught in adultery, his wife is absolutely devastated. Most often, the pastor cheats on her with a staff member, church support staff, or a family friend. Church leadership needs to be able to be ready to surround the pastor’s spouse with support.

I have seen wives who decide to stay with their husbands and they are shown scorn from people in the church for doing so. I have also seen the opposite – wives who leave their husbands and are shown contempt for doing so. It is a traumatic event for the spouse and what she needs is not to be surrounded by people telling her “you need to divorce that creep” or “you know, the Bible says divorce is a sin.” Advice given may be correct, but what the spouse needs for such an awful moment are people who are willing to simply comfort her, cry with her, and allow her to be herself.

Helpful article on helping the pastor’s wife during a crisis:

Helping Your Pastor’s Wife After a Church Crisis” by Paraleko

Next time, I want to focus on the church’s public response to the pastor’s adultery.

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

____________________________

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

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

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

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

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.

____________________________

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

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.

__________________

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

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

____________________________

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.