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Sermon: What I Wish I Had Known Three Years Ago About Forgiveness

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

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

Posted by fallenpastor | Posted in adultery, church leadership, church members, churches, community, conflict, forgiveness, humillity, judgmental, pastors, preachers, reconciliation, repentance | Posted on 23-10-2014

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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.

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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.

Why Churches Aren’t Growing: Transparency & The Fallen Church

Posted by fallenpastor | Posted in apology, bitterness, church, church face, church members, community, evangelism, fallenness, forgiveness, ministry, reconciliation, relationships, restoration | Posted on 12-05-2014

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altarSo if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. (Matthew 5:23-24 ESV)

I write a lot about reconciliation and forgiveness. There are several reasons for this.

First, I was horrible at it before I fell. I was an awful example to my family, my friends, and my congregation. I now know what it’s like to be the one who desperately wants to be reconciled with people I have harmed.

Secondly, one of my reasons for blogging is that I want to see churches and fallen pastors reconcile. Some churches actually handle the process the right way. They approach the pastor when they discover his indiscretion, they help he and his family get help as they depart and stay in contact with him.

However, this is a rarity. Most churches harbor bitterness, anger, and never get over the event. I do not believe this is the will of Christ. As the verse above states (and many others), those who have been sinned against should be the initiators of reconciliation and forgiveness. As I have stated before, this does not mean letting the minister back to a place of authority necessarily, but it does mean love and forgiveness.

There are a lot of verses about forgiveness. Some put the onus on the one who sinned. But the verse above and others put the responsibility on the one who was sinned against.

In the Southern Baptist Convention, there are literally hundreds of churches that have been hurt by fallen pastors. Some of these churches have not made amends or reconciled with these pastors.

Do not hear me placing full blame on these churches. If you’ve read my previous posts on the matter, you will know that is not how I feel. angry churchThese men fell and sinned. Sometimes, they get pompous after their fall and immediately try to return to ministry. They become recalcitrant and egotistical. I understand that.

However, there is a responsibility for churches to reconcile with repentant fallen pastors.

The majority of our Southern Baptist churches are not growing. There are many reasons for this. Could I suggest that one of the many reasons for it is that we have a lot of junk in our souls that needs to be cleansed?

I know of one local church whose pastor left forty years ago on bad terms. He didn’t even sin morally. It was just a bad situation where he got into an argument with a deacon and his family who “ran the church.” Ever since that time, the church has replaced the pastor every three years like clockwork. The family who was “in charge” is still there running the show.

When you ask an outsider what is going on at that church they always point back at the event that happened forty years ago. That’s a shame.

That makes me concerned about churches all across the nation. It makes me concerned about the church where I fell, and it is my fault. It makes me concerned about the churches where other pastors fell who haven’t taken the time to heal or reconcile with the pastor.

Two things are happening in churches like that. First, a dynamic of distrust can set in where congregations will always have a weary eye of the pastor. And secondly, if the people never forgive, there is the constant sin of unforgiveness in the midst that will hinder worship, growth, and spiritual awareness.

I had a funny thought about evangelism as well. Would churches affected by a fall be less likely to evangelize? Would they be less likely to invite people in knowing that they might have potential sins to deal with?

In our Southern Baptist churches, we do a superb job of putting on a “happy face” each Sunday. We sit up straight, sing when we’re cued to, and shake hands.

nogrowthIf you have kids though, you know that the ride to church is completely different. “Don’t hit your sister! Be quiet back there! You’d better stop complaining about going to church! Don’t act up during the sermon this week!

And each Sunday during Sunday School a topic will come up and we’ll shake our heads at the sinful topic brought up. Lust? “We shouldn’t do that, but you know everyone struggles once in a while.” Greed? “That’s a terrible thing, we should store up our treasures in heaven.” Anger? “Well, righteous anger is fine, but Jesus said love your neighbor.

What if we were transparent during Sunday School? Lust? “Yes, I fight it daily, friends. Each day I struggle. Will you please pray for me?” Greed? “I’ve run three credit cards past their limit and it’s out of control.” Anger? “Me and my wife are having problems. I need help from someone. Can anyone here help me?

What about during the week? What if we acted at church like we did at work? What if the pastor walked in on us at our most sinful moment? What if people saw us worried about our finances, fighting with our spouses, angry with our co-workers, cussing at the mechanic who messed up our car, kicking the cat, etc.?

If we acted at church like we did during the week – now that would be transparent. To have people see us as we really are – broken, sinful, wrecked, miserable, depressed. Because under those Baptist smiles are broken, sinful people who really need help.

When I was a pastor and would go to my bi-vocational job, people would cuss in front of me without knowing I was a pastor. When they found out, they’d say, “I’m sorry, I didn’t know you were a preacher.”

I’d say, “Why are you sorry to me? You didn’t do anything to me. Be yourself.”computer

Why don’t we act around our church friends like we do around our weekday friends? We’re not transparent.

But guess what? God sees right through us. And yet, He loves us still. He shows us grace and mercy.

But, if one of us sees a church member sin or a church leader fall, we judge them harshly. And quickly. And we gossip. No grace. No mercy. Only judgment.

Know why we’re in decline? Because most of us (and I’m including myself in this) don’t look a thing like Christ and His grace when it comes to dealing with one another, much less non-Christians.

We haven’t forgiven those who have sinned against us. We harbor anger, bitterness and rage when long ago we should have reached out and shown mercy as Christ has shown to us.

But strangely enough, each of us will pile into our cars on Sunday, looking our best, put on our Baptist smiles and push down our troubles.

It doesn’t have to be that way. If we were all transparent, (because we practiced being real in front of one another) if we left our Baptist smiles at the door, shared our hurts with one another, reconciled our pasts, then looked out into our community and realized that we’re just like everyone else, we might just be fueled for evangelism.

Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:1 ESV)

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.

Pastors In Trouble: What Can Be Done?

Posted by fallenpastor | Posted in burnout, church, church leadership, community, conflict, ministry, pastors | Posted on 18-03-2014

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fallingWe’ve been looking at the current crisis facing the church today – pastors are falling at an alarming rate. Many are feeling tremendous pressure, conflict, and other forces that they are leaving the ministry, committing adultery and some are committing suicide.

In summary, what can be done?

Associations, denominational leaders, bishops, and state leadership groups need to be intentional about the situation. I get the feeling that “at the top,” the feeling is that the local church needs to be handling the situation. That’s true – when a pastor falls, it’s the responsibility of the local church to handle the situation as they see fit.

But there needs to be some type of help from groups higher up the chain. Those groups need to provide help if asked for it. It’s important for them to suggest guidelines on how to handle the fallen pastor situation. Even more important is understanding the root problem and helping prevent it.

Local church leaders, elders, and deacons need to be aware of how fragile their pastor is. Are they aware of the hours he’s working? What is churcholdtheir impression of how stressed he is? When was the last time the pastor had a real vacation? Has he had any recent crisis events? Are the church leaders doing all they can when conflict arises to stand by the pastor and help fix the situation?

Church leaders also need to be aware of how demanding pastoral ministry is. Any pastor can fall. Any minister can be weakened to a place where he will want to quit the church. Unfortunately, many pastors are so good at hiding their stress and frustration that their departure will come as a surprise. There are many good books and resources on helping the pastor and understanding him. But one of the best things to do is just talking to him.

What can the church do? I have argued more than once that today’s church is not what it was designed to be. The modern church looks more like a club where religious people attend on Sunday than a community of faith that can transform lives.

When people can be part of something and be real, open their hearts to one another on daily basis by sharing themselves through prayer and through the Word of God, it will be a community where everyone – including the pastor – can be real. It will be a community not driven by programs, numbers, budget or power groups – but a group of people gathered for the glory of Christ and consumed with loving each other.

What can the pastor do? He can start by remembering where he began. God called him – a foolish, weak man. He didn’t call him to the ministry because he was a good-looking, amazing speaker. He called him because he was a willing vessel. He just wants us. He wants our brokenness.

pastorofficeAt some point, all of us tried doing too much. We thought in our effort, we needed to do something better. And when we did, we let pride in the door.

One day, we found ourselves in an office, surrounded by books, with less time to pray, with too many commitments, with a ton of programs, and less time for Christ.

When I tell people that pastors are in trouble today more than ever before, I don’t mean the guys who have already fallen. I mean the guys who don’t think they’re in trouble. I mean the guys who think they’re okay. The guys who have convinced themselves that even though they’re stressed, burned out, working too hard, whose marriages aren’t as good as they used to be, who are unhappy at the core – those are the guys who are in trouble.

Because on the inside while they are hurting – on the outside they keep telling everyone that “everything is fine.”

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.

Pastors In Trouble 6: Pastors & Suicide

Posted by fallenpastor | Posted in anxiety, burdens, burnout, church, church leadership, community, compassion, counseling, current events, depression, hope, pastors, prevention, suicide | Posted on 14-03-2014

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I started this series to try and focus on some specific topics and disturbing trends among Printpastors today. This blog exists because pastors have been committing adultery and have been in crisis for a while.

But I’ve noticed a trend that is even more disturbing. I don’t have any numbers to back it up, it’s just one I’ve noticed in the press. It may be a subjective figure, but I have noticed an increase in the number of pastor suicides that are being reported.

There could be a couple of reasons for this increase. Apparently, news reporting on suicides has been shown to increase suicide. According to the Centers for Disease Control, nonfictional newspaper and television coverage of suicide has been associated with a statistically significant excess of suicides.” Is it possible that pastors who read about other pastor suicides are considering this as a way out?

Another possibility for the increase is that there has always been a problem and the numbers have always been constant, but there is just a noticeable clustering of news stories. People tend to put things together to make sense of them. For instance, think of how many times you’ve heard people say, “Celebrity deaths happen in threes.” They don’t, but our minds tend to make orderly patterns – to carve trends out of chaos.

The final possibility is that there is a measurable increase in pastoral suicide. This would have to be measured objectively and to past years. It would take an incredible amount of research and digging.

depressionPastors committing suicide (or anyone else for that matter) is always a concern and I’ve blogged about it here before in several different posts.

The stresses facing pastors are great and when a minister gets to the point that they feel self-destruction is the only way out, they have reached a place where God did not intend for them to be. Hopelessness is not the design for the Christian.

In my book, I outline four distinct things that lead a pastor to the brink moral failure (and really, any type of failure): isolation, conflict, poor marriage relationship, and unrealistic expectations.

Place on top of that a pastor who may already have a tendency toward depression and there is a serious problem. Pastors need help, encouragement, and someone to talk to just like anyone else. They spend all week listening to, counseling, and ministering to the people of God. Many times, they feel spent and as if they have poured themselves out for everyone else – and that there is no one to help them or listen to them.

That is why churches and leaders – the community of faith – must be intentional about taking care of the pastor. Not just during pastor appreciation month, but every day of the year. Pray for him, watch his kids so he can have a date with his wife, give him a paid vacation, allow him a paid sabbatical every couple of years, make sure he is given counseling if he needs it, give him an intentional day off every week where he can rest.

Even better, have a speaker come in to talk to the leadership or the whole church – someone who understands pastors and someone who can tell the church how to intentionally care for him and his family. (And while the speaker is there, send the pastor and his family off on a nice weekend getaway!)

Did you realize that Sunday isn’t a day of rest for the pastor? It’s a work day. He spends

Rod Anderson, CP Cartoonist

Rod Anderson, CP Cartoonist

every other day of the week tending to the church. A lot of churches are really good about providing the pastor with another day to make up for this lost day of the weekend. But the pastor needs a day to relax and just be himself. A day to not get phone calls about the nursery smelling funny or why he pronounced “Belial” wrong in his sermon.

Pastors are under tremendous pressure – mostly by themselves – and they need our help. I know it can be weird or hard to ask your pastor, “Are you okay?” or “How about you let us watch your kids this weekend?” or “The church has decided to pay for a week vacation for you and your family.”

But guess what? That little awkward moment will go a long way in reaching out to a minister who might feel very far from the people around him.

Need help? Check out Christian Suicide Prevention’s website.

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.

 

Pastors in Trouble 2b: The Community of Faith

Posted by fallenpastor | Posted in burdens, Christ, church, church face, church leadership, church members, churches, community, conflict, culture, depression, forgiveness, isolation, leadership, ministry, pastoral care, pastoring, relationships | Posted on 28-02-2014

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Bryan Grant Real Estate PhotographyI’ve been writing about why so many pastors are in trouble. Pastors are leaving the ministry at an alarming rate. Some are committing adultery, some are just quitting, some leave over conflict, and shocking there seems to be a rise in pastor suicide. What’s going on?

This post is the second part of the discussion about one of the issues that needs to be addressed – our churches. Make sure you read the first part before you start here.

What does church look like today? A club. We go to churches that are bigger and have great programs for our kids (that is not a knock on large churches with dynamic youth programs, by the way). A place where we can sit in the back and not be noticed. We don’t want them to know who we really are.

Where did we go wrong? When did we stop being a community of faith and just another club to join?

I’m afraid one of the problems has something to do with the question I asked in the beginning of this series – “Are you loving people the way Christ intended for you to?

If we are, then when people sin in the community of faith, we will act out Galatians 6:1, conflictBrethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.

Or, if we are having a conflict or disagreement with another member of the community of faith, we won’t let it ride or have a grudge with them: Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift. Matthew 5:23-24

Guess how all of this affects a minister? Not good. One of the leading causes of the downfall of a pastor is isolation. Did you know that 70% of pastors do not have someone they consider a close friend? Pastors won’t find that statistic shocking at all.

Knowing that, it won’t surprise you that the majority of ministers will never, ever get close to a church member or a church leader. I’ll give you three reasons.

First, the pastor has probably been burned before when he got close to a church member. He told a deacon or elder something that was bothering him or a secret. And that person either betrayed his confidence or used that secret against the pastor.

This awesome Razorback is metaphorically showing us the distance most pastors put between themselves and church members.

This awesome Razorback is metaphorically showing us the distance most pastors put between themselves and church members.

Secondly, the pastor has been taught in seminary or by a mentor to never get close to church members. I was taught in seminary not to confide in church members or get too close. Why? We were told by a professor that if you did, that person might use your secrets or feelings against you.

Third, some pastors don’t want to make friends because they know that their job won’t keep them there long enough to make lasting relationships. (Dr. York had a great blog related to this topic and you should check it out.)

Of course, these reasons are good reasons, but they’re mostly based on mistrust. How can a pastor have a good relationship with his church if he never makes friends there? But I can see the other side. Why would he make friendships if he’s been burned in the past?

Here’s what I’ll say about all of it. We need to reform our churches so that we become communities of faith again. Where we all care about one another – like family. Pastors need to be able to trust their members enough to be friends with them. Yeah, it might not work out. Jesus was betrayed by one of his own. But he still loved.

Local churches need to be fervent about forgiveness. When someone falls in the church, they are your family. If they sin, go after them. Restore them to Christ. Guess what? The pastor is part of your community of faith too. If he does something awful, he needs the love of rescueChrist displayed to him as well. I’m not talking about restoration to the pulpit – I’m talking about restoration to Christ.

When we start acting out the compassion and love of Christ to our fellow believers, we will begin to see changes in ourselves and our fellow Christians. When we begin to bear the emotional weight of one another, all of our burdens become lighter. And when we share our problems, victories, pain, depression, hurt, and joy together – that’s when we truly become a community of faith.

____________________________

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

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

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

Pastors in Trouble 2a: The Community of Faith

Posted by fallenpastor | Posted in burnout, Christ, church, church face, church leadership, church members, churches, community, conflict, culture, fallenness, forgiveness, leadership, pastoring, pastors, relationships | Posted on 26-02-2014

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troubleIn my last post I asked two questions – why are so many pastors in trouble? We have pastors committing suicide, depressed, committing adultery, just quitting, and some are leaving because of conflict. Why?

The other question was a personal one. I wanted you to ask yourself whether you were loving people the way Christ intended for you to. Go back and read the post if you haven’t. It’s our beginning point. If, as a Christian community, we are going to fix these problems and take them seriously, we have to start answering some questions.

We have to be shocked that more and more pastors are committing suicide. We have to be shocked over statistics where 80% of pastors say they are suffering from depression. We must have some sort of twinge of pain when we learn that 77% of pastors say they do not have a good marriage.

Some of us think, “Well, it’s not my problem. The pastor knows where to get help. He can fix himself. He’s got the Bible. He knew it was a difficult profession when he got called. I’m sure he’s doing what he needs to take care of himself.”

I have a surprise for you. He’s probably not. Most pastors don’t do what they need to be doing to take care of themselves. I’ve blogged about it before – most ministers think they can fix their own problems.

Let’s look at one of the problems I believe is responsible for so many pastors leaving the ministry. Simply put, instead of living as communities of faith, we are Sunday gatherings of happychurchpeople with bright smiles who have little connection with one another and are engaging in one more weekly activity.

Let me explain what I mean. The church as we find it in Scripture has Christ as its head. We owe all to Him. He is the reason we exist. When we speak of church, we should be speaking of it as all those who have been redeemed by Christ. When we meet locally as a body of believers, that is a local church gathering.

When we find a local church gathering, we ought to be doing it for the right reasons. We ought to be there first because we love Christ and want to join with those of like mind who worship Him in spirit and truth. We also want to go there because we want to be able to follow Scripture and hear the Word preached. We should desire to be there so we can use our spiritual gifts and become people who are mission minded in our community.

Something else should happen to us when we decide where we belong. We become part of that community of faith. And when we do, we aren’t looking at the church and saying, “What can you do for me?” We are humbly approaching Christ and asking, “How can I serve you here?

worshipWhen we enter a community of faith, we are part of that functioning body. And what does a body of believers in love with Jesus Christ do? They act like the believers in the early church did. They love one another. Their fellowship is sweet. It’s not limited to a once a week handshake.

Fellowship means being able to share your heart with one another in an honest way and not fearing that the secrets and pains of your life will be the object of scorn or gossip from those within the community. It should be as Christ told us – treat others as you wish to be treated.

We should always be looking to mentor and disciple new Christians. We should always be looking to forgive those who sin. If someone is in need, we ought to help them through any situation. The problem often is that we don’t open up with one another enough to know that anyone is having serious problems.

Why is that? Because we’ve become accustomed, for some reason, to put on our church face facesand ride each Sunday out, looking the best we can. The entire time, many of the people in the pew are going through some of the most difficult moments in their lives – financial burdens, health issues, depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, problems with family, job issues – but most will leave it tied up tight in their brain where no one can see it.

It is opposite of what a fellowship of believers is supposed to be. We are called brothers and sisters in Christ for a reason. Yet we build all these walls so that the people we should be trusting and talking to the most know the least about us.

Next post, we’ll be looking at today’s church culture and how we can start making a difference.

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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.

“List of Fallen Pastors”

Posted by fallenpastor | Posted in adultery, blog, community, fallenness, forgiveness, grace, ministry | Posted on 06-01-2014

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list-500x250Once in a while, I like to look at my site stats and see what people are searching for. More and more, people have searched for “list of pastors who have committed adultery,” or “names of pastors who have committed adultery.”

I blogged about this topic for Provoketive Magazine on March 7, 2012. The article gets its fair share of hits.

For four years, the majority of searches that have led people to this site were searches like “pastors and adultery,” “how to forgive a pastor,” “how to help a fallen minister,” or “should pastors who commit sin be allowed back in the pulpit.” But more and more, people are simply asking for lists.

What is our fascination with lists? Go to Google and type in “list of pastor scandals” and you’ll get more than one blog that has a list of “Hall of Shame” of pastors or how pastors who fall are the most horrible people imaginable.

The trend of people searching and looking to compile such lists should give us pause. I have a few ideas why this trend exists and would like to share them.

1. People are searching for a specific pastor who fell. fallen

It might be that someone is using a search engine to find out whether a specific pastor they know, or their pastor who committed adultery, found his way on a master list somewhere. This supposes that a master list exists in the first place.  But why would a church member want to find their pastor’s name? Maybe they want details, maybe they’re trying to make sense of why he committed the sin in the first place, or maybe they are looking for a way to share the story with others.

2. People are noticing the alarming trend in pastor failure.

Pastors are falling at an alarming rate. In my book, “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World,” I list several pages of statistics that should make the average Christian shudder. Pastors are under a tremendous amount of stress, their ministries are crumbling, they are looking outside their marriage for love, some are sinning and not getting caught, and it’s not getting much better. Typically, when we hear about a mega-church pastor falling in the news, it is just the tip of the iceberg. We never hear about the small-church pastors, bi-vocational pastors, or medium-sized church pastors who are falling at the same rate.

3. People want to do something and don’t know where to start.

Fallen_Pastor_Cover_1200wOver the past few months, my inbox traffic has picked up. Fallen pastors, their wives, churches, church members, and any number of people looking for help. Several new blogs have popped up over the past year of fallen pastors telling their story of their fall from ministry. Some have even emailed me telling me that they were inspired by my story.

All of this tells me something important. Something exists today that did not exist five years ago – a better awareness of a serious problem. When I fell almost five years ago, there was almost nothing online to help fallen ministers. Today, there is a groundswell of help. It’s not always easy to find, but it’s there for those who are really interested in searching for it.

This year, I’m hoping for big things. I’ve talked to people about serious plans for speaking to more church groups, conferences, and men’s groups. I hope that one day, some of us will be able to hold a conference on pastoral health and share what we’ve learned. I pray that the epidemic of fallen pastors will become nil. That it won’t be a news story.

I pray that this is the year when the dreams I’ve shared with others will begin to materialize and God willing, lives will be changed.

I pray that this is the year that churches become aware that their pastor is under a tremendous weight and that the institution needs to change. I pray that churches and their leadership come together to help the pastor before weakness can take hold of him.

I pray that no longer will pastors say that the ministry is a thing that weakens their marriages, but bolsters it.

And I hope and pray that when people search for “list of fallen pastors,” the top result will be, “list of pastors whom God rescued.” Lord willing, we can and will make it happen.

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.

Why Are We So Darn Judgmental?

Posted by fallenpastor | Posted in Christ, church, church members, churches, community, compassion, evangelism, humillity, judgment | Posted on 04-01-2014

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photo (2)Really? What’s our deal? Why are we so darn judgmental?

Jesus knew we were judgmental people. He even had to make sure it became part of the permanent record: “Judge not, that you not be judged.” (Matthew 7:1, ESV)

Now, before you bring up the difference between discernment and judgment, let me give you my hillbilly definition of judgment vs. discernment.

Let’s say you just heard Billy Bob cheated on his wife. You say, “Oh my.” In your “Oh my,” you’re thinking, “that’s terrible, I feel sorry for his wife and kids. I hope everyone is okay. That’s such a tough sin to get through.

Hey, guess what? That’s discernment. That’s knowing what is right from wrong.

But the next thing you say is, “Well, I’d never do that. Billy Bob is such a scoundrel. He’s dirtier than dirt. Why he’s lower than the scum on Satan’s boots. I think I’m gonna pick up the phone and tell everyone/Twitter this/post this on Facebook and let everyone know what a jerk he is. Because there is no way I would ever do that.

That’s judgment. Thinking others to be lower than ourselves because of a sin they committed. The same Bible that we find, “You shall not commit adultery” in also contains “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23, ESV)

None of us are any better than anyone else. Some of us have been justified by Christ, but we’re jpastornot better. But man, do we get judgmental. It’s a sin to be judgmental of someone.

When I was a pastor, I had a judgmental streak. I still have an overwhelming sense of justice. That part isn’t so bad, but when it turns to judgmentalism, it’s very bad. If I saw sin, I’d want it gone. Which is good. But I’d go about doing it in a bad way. Not just that, I’d have this self-righteous feeling about myself the entire time. Like I was better than the person sinning.

After I fell, most of that went away. It’s amazing what a great fall can do to you. It’s phenomenal how experiencing the grace of God can transform you into someone who just wants to love sinners more. I get emails from fallen pastors frequently. I just want to help them. Before my fall? I probably would have thought, “That lousy guy couldn’t keep himself straight? Pitiful.

What makes us judgmental? I think several things can. First, if we’ve warmed a pew for any length of time after we have become a Christian, it’s easy to get “insulated” by normative Christianity. Most of our friends become Christians, our Wednesdays and Sundays are filled with Christian talk. Our thought processes are filled with “what should a mainstream American Christian be thinking.”

So when a person in the community or church sin, our first reaction is, “oh my gosh. How awful!” Yeah, sin is awful. It separates us from God. But we ought to hearken back to Christ’s reaction to sin. And I’m not talking about the terrible phrase of “love the sinner, hate the sin.” Because guess what? At that moment, you can’t really separate the two.

zacchI’m talking about how Christ just went to people others wouldn’t approach. He was friend first – as in “Hey, Zacchaeus – come down from that tree, let’s have lunch.” He shocked the modern religious leaders and religious right by approaching and eating with sinners. The exact thing we’re not doing.

When was the last time any of our churches had a potluck for sinners? I know, we’re all sinners, I get that. But when was the last time we honestly made a meal and invited those from the community we consider outcasts? The people who, deep down, we really don’t want joining our church?

I learned a lot about grace after my fall from ministry. God forgave me, loved me and put me on the right path again. And in turn, I try to show that same grace to those who fall. It’s a hard lesson to learn, but one that should be practiced by us all – before we fall too far.

__________________

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.

 

Gay Marriage, the Church, and the Jesus Response

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

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

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

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

Pic courtesy of PBS

Pic courtesy of PBS

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Pathetic Power of Unforgiveness: When “I’m Sorry” Isn’t Enough, Pt. 3

Posted by fallenpastor | Posted in Christ, community, compassion, conflict, cross, fallenness, forgiveness, grace, love, mercy, reconciliation, relationships, restoration | Posted on 18-03-2013

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When we mess up and need forgiveness, one of the most frustrating things can be when people withhold that forgiveness. I’ve tried to outline some lewisreasons people do that, but today I want to get into one of the really nasty things that can happen after someone grants a sort of half-hearted forgiveness.

You know what I’m talking about. You’ve sinned against someone and you ask their forgiveness, but when they grant it, the forgiveness only becomes a way to keep you down. They constantly remind you of your former sin, beating you over the head with it. Or, worse, they sarcastically or subtly bring it up at an opportune time to give them a perceived upper hand.

That’s not forgiveness. And I hope that goes without saying. If someone is holding that kind of “forgiveness” over you, it’s not love, grace or kindness. It’s a power trip. And the best thing you can do is simply say, “I realize you haven’t forgiven me for the sin I’ve committed. I’ve been forgiven by God. I hope one day we can talk again about this and you can forgive me. Please let me know when we can discuss it further.

Don’t let people hold your sin that God has forgiven you for over your head. And don’t do it to yourself either. The sin is over with and done. Will consequences still be meted out in real life for it? Sure. But there does come a time for grace and understanding. Move on. If others can’t move along with you, be patient with them.

So why do people do this? In my last blog, I gave reasons people don’t forgive. So why do people act like they forgive then drag up our sin before us in a humiliating way?

For some, it seems like a way to exercise power over another. It’s like standing there and saying, “Remember what you did? I can keep you right where I want you because I know what you did.” Guess what kills that? Public confession. When everyone knows what you did, no one person has power over you.

For others, and most of us, we feel better about our own sin when we can compare ourselves to others. When some one else commits a sin, we can always say, “Well, at least I didn’t do that.” I have a happy little theory that many people enjoy crime and reality TV because we like to know that there are people in the world worse than us. But guess what squashes this line of thinking? The ultimate righteousness of God. None of us is as good as Him. And the only one who can meet that standard is Christ.

fcrossNone of us is any better than the other. In fact, we are all great at sinning. Only by the grace of Christ are we all equal. All ground is level at the foot of the cross.

Forgiveness is so awesome. And it took a fall from ministry for me to grasp it fully. It’s so awesome because it brings us to a place where we don’t have to be ashamed. We don’t have to look down on another or feel beholden to anyone else in this world. We don’t have to walk through Wal-Mart with out head down. We don’t have to worry about what others say about us because our best friend, Jesus Christ, loves us no matter what.

And guess what? If Jesus is their best friend too, they shouldn’t care about it either. They’ll treat us like a brother or sister and we’ll eventually get it all figured out.

Forgiveness isn’t the easiest thing, but when it’s accomplished, it’s one of the greatest things.

__________________

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.