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For All The Sinning Ministers Out There

The title of this post is a little misleading. All ministers are sinners. I’m writing this for every minister, but I’m not. Every church leader should read this, but I’ve got a serious message for a specific group of pastors. I get at least two emails a week from people whose lives...

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Pastors In Trouble 6: Pastors & Suicide

Posted by Ray Carroll | 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.

 

For All The Sinning Ministers Out There

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, advice, affair, church leadership, compassion, encouragement, pastoring, pastors, sin, temptation | Posted on 27-01-2014

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The title of this post is a little misleading. All ministers are sinners. I’m writing this for sinnevery minister, but I’m not. Every church leader should read this, but I’ve got a serious message for a specific group of pastors.

I get at least two emails a week from people whose lives have been changed because a pastor has committed adultery. Sometimes it’s the pastor, sometimes it’s his wife, sometimes a staff member, sometimes it’s a member of the congregation.

There’s one group I’ve never gotten an email from. Not one pastor has ever emailed me and said, “I’m in the middle of adultery. I’m really enjoying it. I’m successfully keeping it from my wife. It’s meeting my needs right now and I’m pretty sure I’m not going to get caught. Please let me know what I should do.

I do, however, get plenty of emails from men like that after they do get caught. I was one of them. After I got caught, I thought I was alone in the world. After being thrown to the curb like garbage, isolated, and the object of scorn (all well deserved, mind you), I wanted help. But not while I was hiding it. (For information on the people who are hurt, the stages of the fallen pastor, and how to help, check out my book, “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World.“)

decisionWhy not? Because I was just fine, thank you. I was managing my sin without any help from anyone and I didn’t want an escape. Were there moments where my mind reflected to Scripture and my conscience rattled me? Sure, but I plunged all that down with the certainty that I was doing the right thing. Life had dealt me a raw hand, I thought. I had been through some serious circumstances, conflict, pain and awful times. I was in a weakened state and didn’t even realize it.

Pastors, I know you’re out there. You’re either in the midst of sin or tottering on the brink of it. You may be texting someone who isn’t your spouse in hopes that it may turn into something else. Deep down you may be thinking, “It’s harmless. All I do is give, give, and give to people. All I want is something for me right now. I’ve finally found someone who understands me.”

You’re probably not going to email me or anyone else for help, so let me give you some advice. Step back, take a deep breath, and get a second opinion (a close friend, old mentor, seminary professor you trust, etc). You won’t like it. If you’re getting an objective opinion, at least listen. Be honest. Tell them the core of your sin. Just listen, don’t argue.

But I’ll tell you this – if you’re far out there, you’re in need of intervention. Worst part, if you’re out there, you’re probably very defensive and full of justification. Humility at this point will go a long way. But you have to be willing to take a first step.

If you do reach out to me, I’ll always listen. I won’t excuse sin, but I won’t judge you as a rroadperson. I will walk with you even if no one else does.

For the rest of you pastors out there? Maybe you’re doing great. Holiness abounds. Beware, though. Circumstances piled upon conflict, upon anxiety, upon unrealistic expectations can turn your heart away from God.

If you have a pastor friend you know who fell into sin? Reach out to him, regardless of how long ago it might have been. You’d be surprised how much good you can do to just talk. It’s a lonely world for a fallen pastor. Remember that showing love and grace to any sinner is what we are called to do – because, pastor, one day, it could be you.

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Ray Carroll is the author of “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World.” If you are a fallen pastor, a pastor in trouble, a church whose pastor has fallen, or need someone to talk to your group about preventing ministry failure, please feel free to contact Ray here. All messages will be kept confidential.

Pastoral Adultery Doesn’t Happen Overnight

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, church, church members, compassion, fallenness, forgiveness, gossip, ministry, pastoring, pastors, preachers, prevention | Posted on 20-01-2014

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pastorad“Our pastor committed adultery! How did this happen?”

If I’ve heard this once since I fell from ministry, I’ve heard it a thousand times. When a pastor falls, it is a shocking thing to the church and community. People’s emotions range from shock then to anger in a matter of days. “How could he?”

Let’s deal with the reality first. Here are a few statistics that I quoted in my book, “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World“:

  • 80% of pastors and 84% of their spouses are discouraged and dealing with depression
  • More than 40% of pastors and 47% of their spouses report they are suffering from burnout, frantic schedules and unrealistic expectations
  • Approximately 1,500 pastors leave their assignments each month due to moral failure, spiritual burnout, or contention within their local congregations
  • 89% of pastors stated they considered leaving the ministry at one time

Now, back to the pastor who cheated . . .

After the gossip wagon kicks into full gear and everyone knows who the pastor cheated with, the people begin to make assumptions. “Oh, I always thought I saw him paying her more attention. He always did hug her a little too long.” Those assumptions may be right or wrong, but it’s part of the church’s way of dealing with the betrayal.

Unfortunately, most church members don’t ever see what goes on behind the scenes with their pastor. A pastor is placed in charge of a church to care for his flock, to preach the Word, visit the sick and new members. However, those are not the only duties he has to deal with.

His duties also include dealing with conflict between members, conflict at church business meetings, listening to complaints (suggestions) from people who know how to do things better, deacon’s meetings, staff meetings, funerals, weddings, and other tasks that few hear about on Sunday.

It’s almost like going to a stage play. When you go to church, you sit in a pew and watch a playperformance. You expect the choir to sing, a special music, and the pastor to preach. He looks nice in his suit or khakis (depending on his dress style) and everything looks great to the congregation and visitors.

At a stage play, though, there are a ton of things going on behind the scenes. There are stage hands rearranging for the next act, people giving cues to the actors, people working lights, the director barking directions, costume changes, and a myriad of other tasks.

It’s the same at church. Parishioners see a polished product on stage, but there is a lot that goes into a Sunday service – especially in the life of a pastor. A week filled with prayer, visitation, Bible study, phone calls, dealing with conflict, etc.

Back to the original question: “Our pastor committed adultery! How did this happen?”

It didn’t happen overnight. The process that led to his fall had been building for years. Let me give you an example. About every time I talk to a fallen pastor, I ask him the following questions. “Were you having severe conflict in your church for a while?” “Were you having severe marriage issues?” “Had you had a tragedy in your life in the past two years?” “Did you feel that you were put up on an unrealistic pedestal?” “Did you feel isolated?”

Every time, the person answers yes to almost every question. These things have been going on for years. Like a pastor friend of mine said recently who pastors a very large church, “Ministry Fallen_Pastor_Cover_1200wis tough. It’s tough on me and it’s tough on my family.”

How does it happen? Because the pastor allows himself to become isolated. Because he isn’t getting help from his church. Because the ministry has a terrible effect on many marriages. Again, it’s all part of a pattern that leads up to almost every fall. In my book, I have stories of many men who fall and the stories are remarkably similar.

The pastor doesn’t wake up one day and say, “This stinks, I think I want out. I’m going to have an affair.”

But it’s close. What I’ve discovered is that after years of depression, anxiety and growing tired of all the conflict, the pastor just wants to be out of the ministry. Some pastors turn to alcohol, gambling, laziness, embezzling, or pornography. These men are most often forgiven and allowed back into the ministry at some point. These men don’t really want out of the ministry, I think.

Like most ministers, they pour their hearts out to people every day and are looking (wrongly) to something to fulfill them. They selfishly look to something to make them happy, to make them happy. I think that set of men are looking for help, but think if they get caught they can get the help they need.

The minister who commits adultery is a man who just wants out. He’s done. He’s tired of it all. Everything has come crashing down and he has had enough. Enough of his disturbed marriage, enough of the negative conflicts, enough of being isolated, enough of it all. He’s not looking for someone, but he inadvertently finds someone who meets the needs he hasn’t been getting.

This process takes years.

What’s my point? That intervention right before a man commits adultery is almost useless. It’scliff like trying to grab for a man right after he’s jumped off the cliff.

Would you like to help your pastor? Get involved in his life. Make sure he’s being mentored. Make sure he and his wife have time set alone just for them. Send them on retreats for spiritual renewal. Make sure church leadership responds correctly to conflict and doesn’t place the load on the pastor.

Approach him honestly about these things. He may not open up to you, but there are people in the church he will open up to. Don’t let him become one of the 1,500 pastors a month who leave the ministry due to church conflict, moral failure, or burnout.

Scripture tells us to all be on guard. Let us all rally around our shepherd before it’s too late.

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Ray Carroll is the author of “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World.” If you are a fallen pastor, a pastor in trouble, a church whose pastor has fallen, or need someone to talk to your group about preventing ministry failure, please feel free to contact Ray here. All messages will be kept confidential.

Why Are We So Darn Judgmental?

Posted by Ray Carroll | 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?

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.

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Ray Carroll is the author of “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World.” If you are a fallen pastor, a pastor in trouble, a church whose pastor has fallen, or need someone to talk to your group about preventing ministry failure, please feel free to contact Ray here. All messages will be kept confidential.

A Monument For Satan? We Already Have One

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in compassion, current events, gospel, jesus, sin | Posted on 11-12-2013

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So, apparently, this is happening :commands

“In their zeal to tout their faith in the public square, conservatives in Oklahoma may have unwittingly opened the door to a wide range of religious groups, including Satanists who are seeking to put their own statue next to a Ten Commandments monument outside the Statehouse.

“The Republican-controlled Legislature in this state known as the buckle of the Bible Belt authorized the privately funded Ten Commandments monument in 2009, and it was placed on the Capitol grounds last year despite criticism from legal experts who questioned its constitutionality.” (Source)

This is not a post about my feelings on church and state. I’ve talked about that before in an article I posted a while back at Provoketive Magazine. Every Christian should be aware of these issues. I will quickly add that the Oklahomans did it because they probably thought they had legal precedent on their side. In Van Orden v. Perry, the Supreme Court allowed a display of the Ten Commandments to stand, but for very specific reasons. You know, as a Christian, we really should be involved with reading and informing ourselves about why the Supreme Court does what it does instead of just watching television to get them to explain it to us.

With all that legal mumbo jumbo aside, I do want to discuss what I feel are some serious problems that cling to this issue like socks to a polo shirt when you take it out of the dryer.

1. Examining our rationale behind placing the Ten Commandments

Don’t start booing me yet. Why are we so intent on engraving the Ten Commandments on a six ton block of granite and placing it in front of courthouses?

schoolprayerNo, I know why. I’ve heard the reasons. Here’s one – “It’s our heritage. When they took prayer and the Ten Commandments out of schools, things started getting worse.” Alright then. There is an issue at stake and it needs to be addressed when that question is asked. What if Christianity isn’t the majority religion one day?

I live in a state where prayers are still said before ballgames. But what if one day Christians aren’t the majority and another world religion decides that they have the right to say the prayers instead of the Christians because they have more people?

See the problem? We can’t allow the government to establish one religion, but we should encourage religious rights for all people.

Another thing that comes up: “We need to have it there so our kids and grandkids can see it and know this is a Christian nation.” Alrighty. If you can get them distracted away from their iPad long enough to see the six ton rock, that’s great. The idea that a rock can be a tool for witnessing strikes me a little strange.

Jesus didn’t say, “Go ye therefore unto all the world, placing the Ten Commandments onto large granite blocks so all can see them, read the law and be led to me.” Nope. We’re supposed to be individually sharing the love of Christ, his compassion, and showing them the need for a Savior. Sure, the Ten Commandments are a great starting point. But they work much better when you carry them around with you instead of putting them on a stationary stump of granite.

2. Putting up solid granite monuments with any religious iconography seems desperate

No joke – churches are in decline. Pastors are leaving the ministry at an alarming rate. Divorce among Christians is prettyozymandias much the same as it is among non-Christians.

Are we putting up icons so that we can ensure a legacy of Christianity will be remembered? It’s almost as if we’re saying, “Well, we sure didn’t go out and witness to people in our neighborhood or in other countries, but we put up this granite slab that had the Ten Commandments on it. That thing sure isn’t going anywhere.”

It’s a sick sort of desperation. We feel like the brand of American Christianity is slipping away. And I might note that the American brand of Christianity is not necessarily always the same as what the Founder created. But here we are in our churches with people leaving at a high rate, people on the outside hurting and skeptical and we are chiseling rocks.

Reminds me of Percy Shelley’s poem, Ozymandias (which is cooler when Bryan Cranston reads it):

Is that what will be left of our brand of Christianity? “Nothing beside remains. Round the decay / Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare.”

It might be if as a church we don’t start looking outside to the same people Jesus was looking at. Too often our churches look like a country club clique. Heaven forbid an alcoholic, soldier with PTSD, adulterer, destitute family, or fallen pastor walk through our doors. There is a huge difference in the way Jesus did things and the way most of us do things. He went out and found people. A lot of us sit and wait for people to come to us. And if we don’t like how they look, smell, act or perform, we run them off.

3. The Satanic Church doesn’t really need a monument

In case you missed it, the Ten Commandment granite block is in Oklahoma. The particular church of Satan that wants to build a monument of its own to Lucifer is located in New York. The church of Satan does have the right to worship freely without persecution by the government. Let’s be clear about that.

graniteBut I’m not sure they should even be looking at constructing a monument. There are plenty of monuments dedicated to evil in this country. As Christians, each of us has violated the Ten Commandments on a regular basis. We have allowed ourselves to become desensitized to sin and we break the very rules we want to chisel on that granite.

Case in point – I set up this site to help pastors who have committed adultery and the people and churches who have been effected by their fall. Other sins? We lie, we steal, we cheat, we do not honor God with our lives, we covet, we hate our neighbor and by doing so, we’ve already built monuments to evil that have done more harm than any church of Satan could ever do.

And by allowing ourselves to become so filled with sin, we have neglected the Gospel and personal holiness.

So what do we do? In Revelation 2:12-17, John wrote to the city of Pergamum where he said the “throne of Satan” resided. The throne he was referring to was probably Pergamon Altar built for the worship of Zeus. It was huge and was very visible. What did Paul say to do about it? Repent and live a godly life.

We don’t need the Ten Commandments on a huge block in the middle of our town. Parents, grandparents, we need to be sharing Christ with our teachers. Pastors, youth directors, choir leaders – teach the people in the pews solid theology and how to adore Christ. Through the Word, through prayer, through biblical worship.

Can it be done? It has to be done. When people come face to face with Jesus Christ, they won’t leave. When they hear the Gospel proclaimed, it will not return void. “For how will they hear without a six ton granite block?” No. They won’t hear without Christians proclaiming the message.

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Ray Carroll is the author of “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World.” If you are a fallen pastor, a pastor in trouble, a church whose pastor has fallen, or need someone to talk to your group about preventing ministry failure, please feel free to contact Ray here. All messages will be kept confidential.

Are We Really Losing 1,500 Pastors A Month?

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, book, church, church leadership, compassion, conference, conflict, fallenness, pastors, prevention, struggles, temptation | Posted on 21-11-2013

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pastorquitOne of the statistics that gets thrown around about fallen pastors reads something like this – “1,500 pastors leave the ministry a month due to ministry failure, burnout, or conflict.”

Right after I fell from ministry, I remember the first time I saw that. There was no reference attached to it. It was simply quoted by a pastor of a large church who I had known for a long time. I Googled the statistic. It is quoted very frequently with no reference.

The statistic is alarming. I finally traced it down to a statistic from the Navigators Magazine, part of the Focus on the Family Ministry. The statistic was sound, I had found it, but it was still hard to wrap my mind around.

1,500 pastors a month?

When I got further into other statistics, I began finding it easier to believe:

  • 30% of pastors said they had either been in an ongoing affair or a one-time sexual a encounter with a parishioner
  • 46% report sexual problems with their spouse
  • 80% believed pastoral ministry affected their families negatively
  • More than 40% of pastors and 47% of their spouses report they are suffering from burnout, frantic schedules and unrealistic expectations
  • 30-40% of ministers ultimately drop out of ministry
  • 75% go through a period of stress so great, they consider quitting

(All statistics can be found in “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World.”)

Those statistics are pretty objective. Now let me tell you how it looks from where I sit. Over the past four years, the temptanumber of emails I have received from people has increased.

I am writing to all of you at this moment and need your attention because nothing could be more serious. We are losing pastors at an alarming rate. I get an email almost every day from a fallen pastor, a woman having an affair with a pastor, or a church that just found out their pastor committed adultery. All of them want help and advice.

The sad part is all of it was preventable. Scripture clearly tells us that we have an escape from temptation. There is always a way out. But in story after story I hear, pastors are committing adultery and trying to hide it. I committed adultery and got caught. It took a long time for God to get hold of me. I know firsthand what it can do to a church and people involved. That’s why I do what I do to help men, churches, and others involved.

But what really bothers me is that at this moment we are extremely concerned about keeping sexual predators out of our churches – and we should be, definitely – by running background checks on nursery workers, youth ministers, and everyone who works with children. However, our associations, districts, denominations, leadership teams and churches are putting very little into the prevention of the failure of their pastor.

According to the statistics, your pastor has a decent chance of failure if he hasn’t already committed sin and is hiding it. That’s why this is so important.

It may be different for your church. When was the last time you paid to send your pastor to a retreat? Or even send your pastor and his wife to a marriage retreat? Even better, if you have the resources, why not host a pastor conference and include the dangers of ministry failure and prevention?

I used to find the 1,500 number a bit hard to swallow. But more and more, I’m beginning to understand its complete accuracy. Please, don’t let your pastor be part of this number.

____________________

Ray Carroll is author of “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World.” If you are a fallen pastor, a pastor in trouble, a church whose pastor has fallen, or need someone to talk to your group about preventing ministry failure, please feel free to contact Ray here. All messages will be kept confidential.

“Our Pastor Committed Adultery 20 Years Ago”

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, affair, Christ, church, church leadership, church members, compassion, counseling, deacons, fallenness, forgiveness, humillity, pastoring, pastors, preachers, repentance, restoration | Posted on 13-11-2013

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oldpulpitOver the past five months, I’ve gotten at least four emails that were almost identical, asking the same question. They all came from church leaders and asked this question: “What do we do when we just found out our current pastor committed adultery over 20 years ago? The deacons at that time knew of it, told him not to worry about it, he repented to them, and they went on, business as usual? But now, people are finding out and it is hurting the ministry of our church and the credibility of our pastor.”

In most cases, the pastor’s infidelity led to a long term relationship, sometimes with children. The current leaders are right to ask the question. And the question isn’t so simple. In fact, there are a lot of things to consider.

It’s not too surprising. In my book, I share the statistic that 1 in 3 pastors has crossed the line with another woman sexually, but is still serving as a pastor.

First, if it was properly handled the first time, is it wrong to bring it up again? Won’t it be doing more damage to the pastor, his family and the church? Second, if it wasn’t handled properly, is there a sort of “statute of limitations” on this type of thing? If it happened decades ago and hasn’t been noticed until now, why does it matter? Third, most of these men are late in their lives. If they go out on a scandal now, it will probably ruin their ministry career.

Needless to say, the first time I got one of these emails, it had to be handled prayerfully and with great discernment. I asked for advice and help from some friends and I think there is a solid answer to the situation, so I’m going to try and put it in words as best I can here for people to reference when they find themselves in a similar situation.

Let’s start with something I’ve always said about pastoral infidelity – or, for that matter, any sexual sin. It leads to messy, awful circumstances. Scripture teaches that very clearly. When we sin, there will be consequences. Let me be clear – there is forgiveness available for all sinners. Christ wipes the slate clean for us when we are repentant. However, the consequences of our sin may last a lifetime.

Whether we sinned five minutes ago or thirty years ago, we may have to deal with circumstances that stem from our sin. consequeAnd guess what? That’s expected. That’s part of humility and repentance. A person who is truly humbled by the grace of God and the consequences of their actions will live a life that proves that humility over and over again.

I meet people frequently who aren’t familiar with my story – how I was a Baptist minister and committed adultery – and some will say, “How could you?” My response, if I am humbled by the grace of God, will be, “I sinned, but I have been forgiven. God has been more than gracious to me.

Let’s turn to the charge of whether a pastor who confessed his sin only to his church leadership should have to bring it back up twenty years later. When I thought about this the first time, something bothered me about it. The church leadership either caught the pastor in sin, was informed about it, or the pastor told them. The leadership then decided for whatever reason, to not tell the rest of the church and keep the pastor in his place of ministry.

I believe this to be a huge mistake. And I believe it to be a mistake Scripturally. When a church hires a minister or has one given to them as their leader, they place their trust in him. They look to him as a man qualified per 1 Timothy 3. Are leaders perfect? Absolutely not. I’ve said more than once that leaders are held to unrealistic expectations. However, a pastor has a bond between himself and the leaders as well as the membership. When he violates any sort of trust with them, the membership needs to be made aware.

Let me be careful here – the response to an adulterous pastor is not to throw him into the street or ignore his sin. He should be removed from the pulpit. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a hundred times – the pastor needs to be restored to Christ per the standard of Galatians 6:1. He needs counseling, support, and Christian restoration. What he does not need is to be thrust back into a leadership role while the church is unaware that he has committed a major sin.

restoreFurther, in all of the men I have seen who have returned to the pulpit after sexual sin, it takes a very long time to be restored. First, they must be restored to Christ. They have to be restored to their wives. Then and only then can they even begin to think about the ministry. This process doesn’t take a few weeks – it takes months, or even years.

Next, is there a “statute of limitations” on this kind of thing? If it happened twenty years ago and no one noticed, should the church just keep ignoring it? Listen, if you as a church leader know and a couple of other people in the church know, chances are, a lot of people know. In fact, there are people in the community who have probably known for a long time as well. The sin that was committed a long time ago may have been a barrier to many people who might have been otherwise coming to your church. Sin does nothing but fester and grow. Like a disease, it has to be brought to light so it can be dealt with – lovingly and with discernment.

So how in the world is anyone supposed to handle this? I’m not going to tell you that there’s an easy answer. There’s not. A few decades have built up between the pastor’s sin and he’s had time to push it down and explain it away. And in that time, God has blessed the church in spite of his sin – assuming he is unrepentant.

Here’s a good way to tell if your pastor is repentant or unrepentant. Take a couple of the wisest, most discerning leaders to  meet with the pastor who know the facts. Approach him in a gentle manner with what you know. You will typically get one of two responses. The response will tell you whether he is  a man who is repentant over his sin or not. Here are the menmeettwo responses:

Response 1: “Are you kidding? We dealt with this twenty years ago. It was taken care of  and that’s all there is to say about it. All you’re doing is bringing up gossip and trying to run me down.

Response 2: “You’re right, you’re missing some of the details and I will tell you anything you want to know. At the time, we didn’t know how to handle it and when I talked to the leadership, that’s what we decided. Maybe it wasn’t the best thing to do. But I feel like I repented. But I want to do what’s right for the church and move forward. I’m open to working with you and whatever is best for my family, this church, and our ministry.”

Obviously, it won’t sound exactly like that. But you get the point. The pastor will have either lived a life of repentance from the point of his sin, or he will have spent his entire life justifying it.

Friends, it’s messy. It’s awful. And it’s because of sin. If you’re in this situation as a church leader, I’m sorry. But know that handling it with compassion, love, grace and kindness will get you a long way. Using accusative, bitter, angry language will simply shut the door. Threatening to leave or split the church will do nothing.

Offer him help, guidance and counseling. Know that I am here to help and I have other people I can put you in touch with.

guilty2If you’re a pastor who is serving who is in this situation, I urge you to do what is right. Stop living under the shadow of guilt and confess your sin to your church. To the people who trust you. As pastors, when we sin, we owe it to them to tell them that we have violated their trust. It won’t be easy, but it is the right thing to do.

Above all else, Christians, don’t let a situation like this ruin your church. Your community is watching to see how you will treat a sinner in your midst. Church members are watching to see how you will react. Always remember that all of us are sinners, saved by grace, who need correction and restoration. When times get difficult, don’t give up.

I’ll close by giving the advice I gave one church. I said to them, “One day, you’ll have to share with your children what happened to the pastor they knew when they were young. After you tell them, make sure you’re able to say, ‘Even though he couldn’t be our pastor anymore, we still loved him and treated him as Christ would have.’”

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Ray Carroll is author of “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World.” If you are a fallen pastor, a pastor in trouble, a church whose pastor has fallen, or need someone to talk to your group about preventing ministry failure, please feel free to contact Ray here. All messages will be kept confidential.

Hershael York, Pt. 2: Pornography, Ministry Failure & Prevention

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, brokenness, church, circumstance, compassion, fallenness, forgiveness, Hershael York, jesus, ministry, pastoring, pornography, preachers, repentance, restoration, seminary | Posted on 25-10-2013

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This is part two of my interview with Dr. Hershael York concerning fallen pastors, grace, ministry failure, and all kinds of things. If you missed part one, please go there first. If not, here is part two of our conversation. If you are looking for even more Dr. York quotables, he helped me out when I wrote my book.

Dr. York and I had been talking about ministry failure, but then the conversation began to turn to the heart of what makes pastors turn and whether anything can be done about it.

yorkWhat can churches and pastors do to prevent ministry failure?

I told Dr. York that since my fall and the inception of my ministry with fallenpastor.com, I’ve had a lot of Christians become very uncomfortable with my presence. There are times I’ll introduce myself to a pastor, tell him about my ministry then my former sin and he’ll take two steps back like he’s going to “catch adultery.”

Dr. York: “The truth is they’re merely uncomfortable talking to people whose sin has been discovered. That’s your only real difference. There’s not one of us that if you took the darkest secret of our life and past, we would be absolutely humiliated, drummed out of the corps, and be considered useless.”

I asked what he thought we could do about helping churches when their pastors fall and told him it was something that has been running through my mind.

Dr. York: “If a guy is repentant and recognizes that he’s sinned against God and has been broken in his sin, then a church has an incredible opportunity to glorify God. God is glorified by repentance and restoration. I don’t think churches know how to do that well.

“We no longer ask students or missionary candidates, ‘Have you  looked at pornography?’ We now ask, ‘When was the last time you looked at pornography?’”

“Our Baptist polity works against us in this way: We don’t have bishops who have any authority to step in. Few of our Directors of Missions are equipped to do this and a lot of churches are distant from their association to begin with. But it’s not like the DOM is the go-to guy to step in and say, ‘here’s what you do.’ Because we’re all autonomous, there’s no central authority.”

The real problem behind pastor failure

The conversation took a turn as we started discussing one of the biggest problems for pastors and men in general. The topic came up as he was talking about an idea he was tossing around to embolden and encourage ministers as a ministry at his own church.

Dr. York: “I work at Southern (Seminary) and am associated with the International Mission Board and I can tell you this; We no longer ask students or missionary candidates, ‘Have you looked at pornography?’ We now ask, ‘When was the last time you looked at pornography?’ That’s what we ask.”

chnprnHe said he’s aware of more and more marriage issues arising between seminary students and their wives because of pornography. The problem of pornography has become a serious issue not just for the men of the church, but for the leaders. He continued:

“Our world says, ‘Whatever your tendency, indulge it.’ So if you’re married and you don’t want to have sex, do it. And if you’re unmarried and you want to have sex, do it. Even guys who have really consecrated themselves to the Lord are having problems. And if from the time you were 12 or 13 years old and you’ve seen everything the Internet has to offer, if you give into it as a married person, you’re going to have serious problems.

“It goes from titillation to what I would call preoccupation with beauty to what I would call perversion. You’ve got to go beyond beauty to get that endorphin rush. There are a thousand perversions out there and people feel they have to ramp it up to get a greater thrill. Once you’re dissatisfied, you lose contentment with what God has given you, and that’s what’s really at the heart of all this sin. Here’s the sphere of what God has given me, and the Word says it enough, but I say, ‘God’s been unfair to me and he hasn’t given me what I want so I’m going to reach outside this sphere and take what I want, whether it’s pornography, another woman, another man,’ and whatever it is, you’ve gone beyond God’s provision for you, you’re not contenting yourself.”

Preventing discontentment in ministry – Dr. York’s secret to success

Dr. York shared with me what has worked for him in ministry. He acknowledged that there were plenty of times that he could have sinned, but God has protected him. But there was a specific moment in his life that he can point to that shines out above all the rest that led to his success in ministry:

“There’s a thing that my wife Tanya and I have started saying that’s not very popular for us to say. Tanya and I agree that the most spiritually significant decision we’ve ever made as a couple was the decision that she would not work outside our home. Now, we don’t lay that down as a rule, I’m not saying that’s God’s will for everybody, I’m not saying you’re in sin or wrong if both of you work.

“But here is what I will say with complete confidence and comfort: It’s harder to stay married and it’s successharder to stay in love when both of you have completely separate spheres of life. She develops her friends and you develop yours. She has her work goals and aspirations and you have yours.

“One of the keys to my success as a pastor in all the churches I have served is Tanya. She just adds so much. She’s a gel. She can just smooth everything over. She senses problems before they occur. Tanya could be making $200,000 a year in real estate if she wanted, there’s no doubt in my mind. And by the way, I was making only $11,000 a year and living in a parsonage when we made this decision. So it’s not like we decided this after I was ‘Dr. York,’ and can pull in the money. We didn’t even struggle with the decision. We both made it.

“We look back at it now, 32 years in and say, ‘That was the critical decision. That made the difference.’ What woman in my church could I start getting close to that she wouldn’t know about it? She’s there, she sees it. She’s not worn out from her career to not notice and conversely she’s truly in my ministry, we have the same friends, a shared ministry purpose. We are always like minded.”

Preventing ministry failure through keeping focus

One thing that you can learn from Dr. York is that he has focus. He loves Jesus. He loves his wife. He loves his family. He loves his church. He’s not a man who will talk your ear off about meaningless things, but he will talk to you about things that are always wise and heartfelt.  And it is this type of thing that has kept him focused on what is right and away from ministry failure:

“I had a man who talked to me once who had fallen. Years before he had a woman come to him in counseling and had said, ‘My husband doesn’t pay attention to me,’ and he said, ‘I know exactly how you feel.’ That was the beginning of the end. He lost it all. The guy also said this to me, ‘Women in my church were always coming on to me.’ And I told him, ‘I find that hard to believe. It’s never happened to me.’

fallen“I believe we send out signals. You come into my office and I’ve got pictures of Tanya in my office up and you can’t be around me for five minutes without me talking about her or Jesus. No woman in any church I’ve served has ever said anything inappropriate to me. I just have to believe that it’s not that you’re the hunkiest guy in the world that makes women want to give themselves over to you, but you’re sending out signals. The minute you said to her, ‘I know how you feel’ you’re making it about you.

“I want to walk in such a way that even if someone falsely accused me, people in my church would say, ‘No, there’s no way.’

 “But there’s a false security guys want to feed, ‘Do I still have it.’ That’s another thing I practice and teach – embrace whatever stage of life you’re in.  I think it would look ridiculous for me as a 53 year old man to attempt to look or act like I’m 33. Paul said I have learned at whatsoever state I am I am there with to be content. And if you really believe Jesus is enough, it just gets rid of that stuff.  That’s where I want to live. I really want to live in the absolute belief that Jesus is enough for me, whatever stage of life.”

Finishing up

Many thanks to Dr. York once again for talking to me and imparting wisdom to me. For being a friend when many won’t even consider talking to me. But more importantly, for believing in grace and what it is truly capable of.

“I cannot need grace as desperately as I do and then refuse it to others.” – Dr. Hershael York

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Dr. Hershael York is the Victor and Louise Professor of Christian Preaching and Associate Dean of Ministry and Proclamation at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Senior Pastor of Buck Run Baptist Church in Frankfort, Kentucky. Tanya, his wife of twenty-seven years, is a popular speaker at women’s conferences, and they have two married sons, Michael, 25, and Seth, 23. For a full biography, please click here.

Ray Carroll is author of “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World.” If you are a fallen pastor, a pastor in trouble, a church whose pastor has fallen, or need someone to talk to your group about preventing ministry failure, please feel free to contact Ray here. All messages will be kept confidential.

What Can I Say To The Grieving?

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in compassion, grief | Posted on 04-10-2013

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grivfamLosing someone close to us is always a difficult thing. It’s especially tragic when death comes suddenly and without warning. All of us know people who have had to deal with personal loss and each of us has had to grieve as well.

Sudden loss is no stranger to me. I lost both parents in separate accidents and my college roommate was killed in a car accident at the end of my junior year. Each time, I struggled with grief. Actually, there are days I still struggle. None of us ever completely recovers from losing someone.

We all need to express our grief in times like that. And we all want to reach out to the families hurt have been affected the most.

The most common question I’ve been asked I by people is, “What can I say to people who are grieving? What can I do to help them?”

I’m not a grief counselor or expert, but I’ve been around a lot of grieving people and done my fair share of funerals. I’d like to share a few things to maybe help answer that question.

First, realize that there are no magic words you can share that will take away their pain. We want to, I think, remove their hurt. When it’s our turn in the visitation line, we want to offer some sort of word that will comfort and maybe bring them solace. But it probably won’t happen. If you’ve been in that situation, you know how true that statement is.

When you’re standing next to the casket of your loved one, you are an exhausted, empty shell of yourself. Distant, emotional and fragile. The barrage of people is comforting at times and at others, it is emotionally charged.

There are definitely things we can do. There are words we can say to help.gc

The first thing I would encourage someone to do is share a special memory. Most people who attend a visitation or funeral have a unique story about the departed. A story that the person’s family hasn’t heard. It’s usually a story about how that person touched your life.

I would encourage you, if visitation time allows, to share that story with the family. If it doesn’t, take the time to write it down in a card or a letter. Even if you share it with them, write it down anyway. Most funeral homes collect cards to give to the family later. It’s hard for family members to process everything during the day of visitation and the day of a funeral. Imagine how precious it is when they open up a card that has a handwritten note from someone that shares with them a new memory about their loved one.

If you’re at visitation and are at a loss for words or didn’t know the person well, I’ve always learned that a simple, “God bless you,” can be a kind word to share.

Did the person who passed on ever give you anything special? Maybe you have a nice photograph that the family doesn’t have. Maybe they made you a bookmark, gave you a card once that encouraged you. You don’t have to give it away, but have it professionally copied and share it with the family and let them know how much it meant to you. If you have a photo of them on your phone or photo album, have it printed, stick it in a card and leave it for them. These keepsakes often mean more than any words we can share.

I remember after my college roommate died, a friend of ours came to see me a week later. She handed me a picture. My roommate and I had taken her camera as a joke and taken a picture of ourselves two weeks before he died. I had forgotten all about it. She had a copy made for me. It meant more to me than anything else I had.

When you do get to talk to the family during visitation and you don’t have much time, just share your heart. If you don’t know them, tell them who you are and how you knew their loved one and how much they meant to you.

visitatIf you know the family and know them well, I want you to encourage you to do something. If you are close to them and they will listen to you and visitation has been a long,weary process, encourage them to take a break for a few minutes. Take them to the funeral directors office for a Coke. Tell them that the visitation line will really be okay without them. That if someone really wants to see them, they will find them soon enough. A five or ten minute break can do a family member wonders. And another family member can fill in while they are away for a few minutes.

Finally, don’t forget that the week after the death is a whirlwind. But the family’s toughest time is often the weeks after. They have personal belongings to go through, an estate to think about, and worst of all, a huge empty hole. The food stops coming, the calls stop coming, and it suddenly gets quiet.

Don’t let it get too quiet. Let them have space if that’s what they want. But invite them to lunch. Send a card or an encouraging email. Love on them.

For more information and help (outside links):

What to Do, Say, and Wear at Funerals

A Guide to Thoughtful Behavior at Funeral Homes

21 Ways To Help a Grieving Friend

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Are you a fallen pastor, burned out pastor, pastor on the brink or a church that has gone through a tough time? You might start out by reading, “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World.” There are a lot of things in there that will help pastors prevent ministry failure and a lot of things to help pastors after they fall. There are also helps for churches whose pastors have fallen.

Need more help than that? Feel free to contact the author of this blog and the book, Ray Carroll. He’d love to talk to you. Anything you say will be kept confidential.

Peanut Butter, Bacon, and Loving Those Who Hate You

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in compassion, forgiveness, love, peanut butter | Posted on 29-07-2013

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lovenemiesIt is not easy loving people or even praying for those who persecute you or hate you. But that’s exactly what Jesus said to do in Matthew 5:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

That’s one of those sections of Scripture where I kinda mumble under my breath, “Thanks, Jesus.” After I fell from ministry, I felt like I had a line a mile long of people who were waiting to hate me. I earned it, but years later, a lot of them are still in line. A lot of you probably feel the same way. You may work with someone who just doesn’t like you or seems to have it out for you for whatever reason. But there is Jesus, telling us to love them.

I guess he could say it too. He loved those who put him on a cross.

So, let me change gears and dumb this down for a moment so even I can understand it.

I loooooooove peanut butter. I think it’s the greatest thing in the world. Some would disagree and say that it’s bacon. I’ve peanutbwritten about my own opinion on the matter, so we can leave that argument elsewhere. I’m writing about peanut butter today. If you love bacon more, then think about bacon when I say peanut butter.

Now, there are a ton of different brands of peanut butter. JIF, Peter Pan, Kroger brand, Skippy, whatever. There are also different types of these brands: smooth, crunchy, extra crunchy and the au natural that has the oil on top that you have to mix (nasty).

However, if you set a jar of peanut butter down in front of me, I would eat it. It might not be my favorite, but I would never declare it “inedible.” It would still be better than eating cake. That’s how much I love peanut butter.

Jesus said, “pray for those who persecute you.” It’s almost like he’ s saying, “Look, Christian. All those people in the world are like peanut butter to me and they all taste the same. I love every brand and every flavor. But you, in your imperfection make distinctions. So if you can’t love them like I do, start praying for them. They’re still peanut butter.”

Now this scenario may seem a little infantile or silly to you, but it works for me. I just view everyone I meet as peanut butter. I don’t hate anyone because they’re all a wonderful work of God. I may like some less, but they’re still an awesome jar of peanut butter. If there’s a problem with taste, it’s my problem and something I have to work through. Over the years, I’ve learned that in the end, some people think I’m the jar of nasty, oily peanut butter. But over time, God changes pblovetheir heart toward me. And vice versa.

We’re all just a bunch of people who need understanding, compassion and love. Treating each other with hostility, unforgiveness, harshness or hatred will get us nowhere. However, when we treat one another like a 64 ounce jar of amazingly fresh JIF, then we will be making progress.

Still don’t get it? Then go ahead. Go back and read it again with bacon instead of peanut butter.