Featured Post

Radio Interview: 9/22, 2:30 CST

I’m scheduled to do a radio interview with The Drew Marshall this Saturday. It’s the largest listened show in Canada on spiritual topics. Im pretty sure you can listen live or if you can’t, they archive the show. The link is here. Pray things go well and people are ministered to. At...

Read More

Are Pastors Too Hard On Themselves?

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in burnout, church, church members, conflict, criticize, expectations, leadership, ministry, pastoral care, pastoring, pastors, stress, struggles | Posted on 31-01-2014

1

polevaultI was on the phone recently with a pastor friend of mine from out West. He had overheard someone in his church criticize something he had said and he had taken it personally.

He said something like this – “People don’t understand how much criticism can hurt pastors, especially when we are working so hard all week-long doing ministry for them. I mean, we work so hard to do everything right. What they don’t understand is that no matter what they say or do to criticize, I’m always harder on myself than they could ever be on me.

Those words I just bolded, italicized and underlined are important. They come out of the mouths of about 90% of the pastors I talk to. Heck, I said it about myself when I was pastoring. “I’m harder on myself than anyone else could be. I expect more from myself than anyone else could. I expect my sermons to be just about perfect, my ministry to look excellent, my appearance in public to look great, and everything I do to be a reflection of my church and of Christ.

That’s a pretty good summary of how most pastors feel even if they wouldn’t use those exact words. In my book I talk about some of the things that lead to ministry failure and unrealistic expectations is one of the top things.

Guess where a lot of the unrealistic expectations come from? From the minister himself.

It’s a good thing to have realistic expectations for yourself. You should have reasonable, biblical standards for yourself. But there is a point where those expectations become unrealistic. When we set the bar even over what Christ has for us.Frustrated office manager overloaded with work.

I think there’s a moment in ministry where the pastor starts micromanaging or taking on too many tasks and he thinks that he is responsible for the reputation of the church. Instead of seeing the church as a body, he really starts to see himself as the one who needs to be involved in every aspect so that he can make everything work.

To be fair, this often happens when members fall to the wayside and fail to perform certain duties. The pastor will start making the bulletin, teaching classes, handling the youth, cleaning the toilets, etc. and he will start piling it on and he thinks he’s doing the work of the kingdom. Unfortunately, what he’s doing is weakening the reason he’s there. He’s there to preach the Word and be a shepherd.

But as time goes by, something else happens. He looks at the success of his peers, other churches in the area and he sees that he’s not keeping up. It’s church envy. Most guys won’t ever admit to this. Even guys who have large, seemingly successful churches. A lot of pastors end up with a lot of pride and just want more. And they take it on themselves to grow the church. And guess what? It’s not their job. Christ said He would add to the church.

After several years of being out, it has been easier to look at what I became in my later years and how I got isolated and frustrated instead of doing what I should have been doing. I heard my friend on the phone as he shared with me some of his problems and I heard some of the things in his voice that I used to hear in mine.

exhaustedThat’s when he said, “It just bothers me that people criticize when they don’t know the whole story. If they knew how hard I am on myself, they’d probably never say anything. Because I’m harder on myself than they’ll ever be.

I could hear it in his voice. I could hear the days he spent in prayer for his people, the hours he spent in sermon prep, the countless times he had answered a late night phone call, the numerous times he had to smile at a church member who he knew really didn’t like him. I could hear in his voice, not anger, not bitterness – but the kind of sadness – not equal to, but similar to – the kind that Jesus had when he looked out on the people he was trying to help who only had scorn for him.

I said, “Why are you being so hard on yourself?

He said, “What?”

I said, “You’re doing the same thing I used to do. You said you’re trying really hard and that you’re being really hard on yourself. Why do you do that?

He said, “I just want it all to be right. I’m trying to do my best.”

I said, “Remember when you got your call to ministry? Remember when you first started pastoring and you preached your first few sermons? I bet if you could go back now and listen to them, you’d think they would sound terrible, wouldn’t you?

He laughed and said, “Yeah, I would.”

I continued, “And I bet you didn’t have a clue about what to do as a pastor. But at that 2cor12moment, you were convinced that all you needed was Christ and His Word and you could make it, right?”

He paused, “You’re right. I hear you.

And I said, “That’s all he wants from you now. Do you think Christ wants you to be this hard on yourself? Yeah, he wants our best. But he doesn’t want you driving yourself mad and into the ground trying to do everything. He doesn’t want his people having unrealistic expectations. You know what he wants. The same thing He wanted when He called you. He just wants you.”

He wants you in your weakness. Because His power is made perfect in our weakness, right?

You’re right. I see what you’re saying,” he said. It was like a realization he hadn’t had in a while. And to be frank, what I had just said had come out of nowhere. It was something I needed to hear too.

It’s one of things that comes to me from the Holy Spirit when I talk to guys. I’m not wise by any means. Sometimes I’m not particularly helpful. But God always knows what to say.

And pastors, if you’re reading this and you are pushing yourself to be perfect, and you have the accelerator mashed to the floor, trying to get everything you can out of yourself, it might be time to remember that Christ doesn’t want you to do that. He just wants you. He wants you to be yourself – weak, vulnerable, gifted and ready to serve.

_______________

Here are some excellent articles about dealing with expectations:

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

Experts: Pastor burnout results from unrealistic expectations” from Florida-Times Union

Unrealistic Ministry Expectations: What’s a Pastor to Do?” by Paul Tripp

How to Pastor Difficult People” by Richard Dobbins

_______________

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

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

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

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

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

6

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

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

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

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

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

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

osteensmileSo what is it? What is it about him?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

________________________________________

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

Taking A Pastor’s Fall Personally

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, affair, anger, bathsheba, bitterness, Christ, church, compassion, criticize, fallenness, gossip, grace, hatred, pastors, preachers, pride, reconciliation, repentance, restoration, sin | Posted on 07-08-2012

3

I’m the kind of guy who takes things very personally. Some people are just wired that way. I like to act like things just roll off my back and I really don’t care but I’m pretty sensitive.

I’ve gotten better since I started blogging about not taking things personally, which is a good thing for all of us to learn.

I mention it today for a very serious reason. And this is a blog to be read very, very carefully.

Know why? Because I care about everyone on every side of this issue. Fallen pastors, their spouses, those they’ve been involved with, their churches, their families, their fellow pastors, their children – everyone. Know why? Because they are all worthy of the love and care of Christ.

When a pastor commits adultery and falls from the ministry, it hurts many people. Since my fall, I’ve had time to listen to people on every side of the fall. Of course, I was the adulterous pastor. I knew what it was like to be selfish, leave the ministry and not listen to anyone.

I’ve also had time to listen to the wives of fallen pastors. Hear their side of the story. I’ve also heard from the women who committed adultery with the pastor. I’ve talked to church members and friends of the fallen pastor. I’ve seen this issue from all sides and I must say, it has humbled me even greater than before.

After a pastor commits adultery, it breaks hearts. It wounds people. It makes a story for everyone. Sometimes it ends up on the front page of the newspaper if the church is big enough. It always makes the rounds in gossip in the community. Regardless, it is an act that hurts many people. It angers many. It leaves many asking, “Why? How? What are the reasons?”

Let me state this very carefully. Because some people may read it very wrong. So I’m going to start with Scripture. After David committed adultery with Bathsheba, he wrote Psalm 51. He said in verses 3-4:

For I know my transgressions,
        and my sin is ever before me.
    Against you, you only, have I sinned
        and done what is evil in your sight,
    so that you may be justified in your words
        and blameless in your judgment.
(Psalm 51:3-4 ESV)

I used to wonder what David meant by, “Against you, you only, have I sinned.” He was talking to God. Surely David knew he had sinned against Bathsheba’s husband by killing him. Surely fallen pastors know they sin against their own wives when they commit adultery. So what’s the deal?

Here’s the deal - when any of us sin, the sin debt we owe is owed only to God. We will only face Him for judgment. Him alone. At the end of it all, we face no man. We face God Almighty. That’s a lot of judgment to answer to.

That’s why it’s so important for us to walk a righteous path. To be justified in Christ. To then walk a life of holiness. To repent after we have sinned and cry out to God after our transgression.

Now, to the tough part. When a pastor sins, he hurts a lot of people. I’ve heard a lot of pastor’s mothers, sisters, brothers, mentors, cousins, grandparents, church members and so on say, “How could he do this to us?”

Let me say this very gently. He didn’t do it to you. It feels like it though, doesn’t it? Your pastor didn’t sin directly against you. He did a very selfish, sinful thing, but he did not directly do it to hurt you. Don’t take it personally. He chose a path of sin, did it consciously, with his own flesh in mind, but he did not have you in mind when he did it. He was not trying to directly hurt you in the process. You cannot take it to an extreme personal level that you begin to harbor horrible feelings toward him.

I can speak to this because I’ve been hurt before by a direct family member. He hurt me. He left our family. Hurt us. And I took it personally. He even told me he didn’t mean for me to take it personally. Looking back, I know he was right. He didn’t mean to hurt me personally.

The fallen pastor, like my family member did what they did because they were sinners. They were selfish. Did your fallen pastor hurt you? Absolutely. Did it have an effect on your relationship with him? Yes, without a doubt. Was he under the influence of sin? Yes. But did he do it maliciously to harm you? More than likely not.

Now let me ask a question. When you are selfish in your life. When you sin. When you do things to please yourself. When you commit sins of gossip, lying, covetousness, idolatry, stealing, lust, pornography, covering up other sins – are you necessarily doing it to personally harm someone else? A family member? Probably not.

So what is your role now? If you’re a relative, a church member, a fellow pastor or a friend? Well what does Scripture say? Does Scripture say to take it personally and hold his sin against him? No. It says in the spirit of Galatians 6:1 to restore him. But you may say, “But I don’t have it in me. It hurts too much. I don’t understand why he did this.

In my experience in interviewing fallen pastors, you may never understand. But you have to keep praying. Keep the door open slightly. Keep letting him know you love him. That doesn’t mean condoning his sin, but let him know that you love him for who he is, in Christ as a brother. That doesn’t mean loving him for his sin, but loving him because he’s him. That may be the hardest thing you’ve ever done, but it may mean more to him that you’ll ever know.

When I fell, I had about three people reach out to me. None of them were family. It took family about three months to talk to me. It took four months for the first church member to say something. I want you to know something very important. A pastor is just as much a member of the body of Christ as anyone else. If he falls, we are to go after him. If he shows signs of repentance, no matter how small, we are to rescue him.

Just because he gets a paycheck doesn’t mean we get to fire him because he sins. It doesn’t mean because he commits a sin we get to toss him by the side of the road. The body of Christ includes all of the members. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. (1 Corinthians 12:26 ESV)

Above it all, try not to take it personally. Don’t run to Facebook and say, “How could he do this to me?” or to the woman he was with “You are such a *@&$#” as one person did to Allison. He didn’t do it to you. He has a higher standard to answer to. Instead, go to him. Run to his side. Don’t judge him immediately, but find out what is going on in his heart. Ask him, “Let’s work through this.” He may not want to talk right away, but he will know you are there.

The body of Christ is made up of many parts. At least one of them might be able to reach out to the fallen pastor.

__________________

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

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

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

The TMZ Attitude of the Church

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in church, criticize, gossip, relationships, sin | Posted on 30-04-2012

0

You’re a Christian. You just got caught embezzling money. You got caught cheating on your spouse. You got caught lying to a large group of people about your true nature. Everyone just found out that you’re an alcoholic.

Worst part? You’re a member of a large church. Everyone knows you and respects you. Past tense: Respected you.

Now, your sin is out there for everyone to see.

Your sin gets exposed in several different ways. You may come forward with it on your own. You confess to your spouse, your church and to your friends, hoping for a restoration to a Christian walk. That doesn’t happen very often. When it does, sometimes it turns out well.

Maybe you get caught. When you get caught, it might make front page news. Maybe you get arrested. Maybe the phone lines burn up with words like, “Can you believe _________ did ___________? Unbelievable!”

What you will learn quickly is who your friends are.

The Christian community is called to restore those who fall. Galatians 6:1 cannot be any clearer:  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.

Unfortunately, in many churches in our world, the idea of restoration has been mixed with a TMZ idea of scandal and soap opera drama. Instead of rushing to the sinner’s side, many parishoners sit on their hands and wait to see what will happen next. When the faintest wafting of gossip comes their way, the prayer chain is jammed with misinformation.

Members don’t bring covered dishes, they stand back with disdain and judgment.

Why does this type of attitude remain in our churches? I’ve written about it in my book, but it has to be said over and over again if we are to attempt to restore the sinners in our midst. If they aren’t worth saving, who is?

Many people look down on a sinner because it gives them a chance to say, “I’m better than they are.” It’s like we can all line ourselves up from most devious to most righteous. But that doesn’t work in God’s economy. The justification of Christ means that all Christians stand holy before God. When any of us commit a sin, we are forgiven. He still holds us fast in His hand and forgives us when we ask.

Many look down on us because they see how close they are to the same sin. Our own sin exposes their sinful hearts. We are each capable of the most heinous sins if we do not stand guard and give ourselves to the Spirit.

When a member falls, when a member sins, make haste to their side. Even if they don’t answer right away. Even if they distance themselves from you. Even if they don’t return your calls or texts. Approach them in love, not judgment. Let them know you love them. Treat them like the person they were before. They need to know they are loved. God is the one who will work on their hearts. Trust God to do His work and you stand by and walk with them.

And as my mother used to say, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”

__________________

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

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

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

The Sins of Bobby Petrino

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, affair, arkansas, criticize, ego, fallenness, forgiveness, regret, relationships | Posted on 12-04-2012

5

In the past week or so, we’ve been hearing about the soap opera that has been unfolding around the Arkansas Razorback football program in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Long story short, head coach Bobby Petrino was taking a motorcycle ride and had a wreck. When he had a press conference, he said he was alone at the time. With an investigation, it turned out that he was with a young woman he had been having a relationship with for quite some time who was not his wife.

That’s not enough to fire a head coach. What made it worse was that Coach Petrino hired this young lady to be part of the football program over about 150 other candidates and gave her a $20,000 dollar advance. He lied to his athletic director, he lied to the media and he lied to his family.

This week, the University of Arkansas fired Bobby Petrino. There were a few moments where it looked like they might retain him. In the past two seasons, he has brought the Razorback program back to prominence. Two seasons ago, they were in a BCS bowl game. Last year, they finished ranked in the top five.

I’m a die hard Razorback fan. I was born and raised in Russellville, Arkansas and I consider it to be my home. Truth be known, I might even have a Razorback tattoo. Maybe.

When Bobby Petrino stepped onto the scene, it gave me hope for the future of Razorback football. It also gave hope to Razorback nation. Yeah, he’s got ego, he’s got charisma. He rubs people the wrong way. But he’s a winner. I love the man. He gets results and has turned the program around from what the previous coach had done.

Last night, I got the news that he had been fired. My heart sank. I came home and talked to my wife, Allison about it. I was devastated.

I said, “They fired Bobby. I’m disappointed.”

She said, “Why? Did they fire him just because he committed adultery?”

I said, “No, the athletic director made it clear in the press conference that if he had just committed adultery, he could have kept his job. But he lied and hired the woman he was seeing. He put the university in a bad spot. It could cause lawsuits.”

She said, “How do you feel about that?”

I thought for a moment and said, “I’m disappointed. I love that guy. He was what the Razorbacks needed. I put my faith and hope into him and the program he was building. And with one action, he took it all away.”

At that moment, I saw the irony in what I was saying. But Allison called me out on it too.

She said, “Do you see the irony in what you just said?”

I said, “Yeah, I do. I fell from the ministry because I committed adultery. I disappointed a lot of people when I fell. I hurt a lot of people who had put their faith in me. People who had placed high expectations in me and suddenly it was gone. I mean, I’m hurt over a football coach. But people who lose a pastor are hurt even more.”

I have often said that the job of pastor can be compared to two other professions – coaches and politicians. When Congressman Anthony Weiner fell a while back, I blogged about it. It was the most page views I’ve ever had in a day. He was a man who fell into temptation. Same with Bobby Petrino. A man with high expectations who for whatever reason, fell into temptation.

Pastors, politicians and coaches have a lot of similar characteristics. For one, they serve people without getting much in return. They give and give and give of themselves without receiving much positive feedback. Secondly, they often only hear the negative remarks from people. They are bombarded with complaints and anger from people without hearing the positive.

Coaches know what I’m talking about. They run practice all week. Parents aren’t there to see the hard work that is done there to prepare for gameday. But when gameday rolls around, everyone shows up, buys a ticket and complains about what went wrong. And everyone thinks they could do a better job. Same for a politician. We don’t see what politicians do for our good in their offices all week. The phone calls they make and the people they interact with. We only tend to get on them for what they don’t do. Same for pastors. The pastor spends all week preparing three messages, visiting the sick, making phone calls, praying and shepherding the flock. But when he makes one mistake on gameday (Sunday), it’s all about that mistake.

As a fallen pastor, I hope things turn out okay for Bobby Petrino. He’s got a lot of great characteristics about him. There’s a reason fan bases fall in love with him. I wish he was my grandfather. I won’t forget the eulogy he gave for fallen Razorback tight end, Garrett Uekman. He was in tears. They were real. And he cared.

At the same time, I identify with Bobby Petrino. Heck, I wrote a book about it. His problem began with pride, I assume. Then it worked into a relationship with a woman other than his wife. We don’t know why he started that relationship. In my book, I listed several reasons pastors seek out such a relationship. Men become isolated, they have bad relationships at home, and they have conflicts. I don’t know if those things are true for Coach Petrino, but I hope the best for him. I want him to heal and find solace.

What we learn from Coach Petrino is what I learned. When we seek after a relationship or a sin, there will be consequences. Even if we decide to stay in that relationship, if that is what we really want, there will be consequences. For a lifetime. Coach Petrino’s downfall began when he sought after a relationship with a woman who wasn’t his wife. Hey, that’s his business. He’s not a pastor. He’s a coach. If he was a pastor, he would have been fired immediately. But coaches and politicians are held to a different moral standard. The problem came when he decided to step outside the lines and make hiring practices based on his personal life.

There seem to be several sentiments coming out of Razorback Nation. Some are happy to see him go. Some are sad to see him go because he was a winner. Many are disillusioned and hurt. Some are just worried about the football program. Some are happy because they have said he was a crook from the beginning.

During his tenure, those who didn’t really care for him were rooting for him to succeed because the team was winning. Winning solves everything. We tend to overlook faults when things are going well. Sounds like a pastor. There are those who don’t like the pastor – but when the money is rolling in and people are being baptized, they can act happy. But now that Coach Petrino has fallen, will people be human toward him? When the stands were filled with thousands in support of him, where will they be now? He messed up horribly. I expect that 50% of those in attendance were Baptist. Will they reach out or will they turn a blind eye?

All I know to say is this – he’s a human. He’s full of fault like the rest of us. We all make mistakes. Guess what? His mistakes got shown on a national scale because he was an amazing coach with a lot of attention. But in the end, his sins will be measured the same as any of ours. If any of us think we are better than him, we are wrong. All of us are messed up and seconds away from a fall.

Pray for Bobby and his family. Know that all of us are frail, sick, weak, and close to a fall. By the grace of God, we may not. Be compassionate toward those who do fall. Regardless of how it may hurt.

__________________

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.

Can Seminary Puff Up a Pastor?

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in coaches, criticize, entitlement, hate, pettiness | Posted on 30-03-2012

1

I live in Kentucky, but I am not a native of this state. I am a born and bred Arkansan. I make it known to anyone who will listen. When I bring it up to Kentucky basketball fans, I am often mocked. For good reason. We won our championship back in 1994. Kentucky has won a billion.

I even got punked out by Cameron Mills one time in Rupp Arena about Arkansas’ lack of titles.

I’m just happy that we have a banner to hang. Things are looking up.

I say that to say this: There’ a huge game this weekend. University of Louisville vs. University of Kentucky. I’m sure you’ve heard of it by now. It’s the Final Four.

These teams have been battling the war of Armageddon since time began. They hate one another. Worse, the fans hate each other more. Rumor has it that the sports bars in downtown Louisville are only allowing either UK or UL fans in the door. They don’t want fights on game night. They know the score. Smart move.

Now, for my rant. I’ve lived in the blessed Bluegrass since 1995. I had no idea how much the people in Kentucky love their Wildcats. It took me a few years to understand it, but it goes beyond reason. Seriously.

Here’s a question I like to ask Kentucky fans while I’m watching a game with them. I’ll see a Kentucky player commit an awful foul. Or he’ll walk. Or he’ll lose his temper. Everyone in the country sees it. He’s guilty as sin. But the Kentucky fan says, “He’s getting ripped off by some biased officials!”

I’ll say, “Seriously? Did you see what happened? He was wrong?” Then my follow up question that I ask of every Kentucky fan. “Does living in Kentucky make you a basketball official? Does living in Kentucky make you smarter than every other basketball fan in the country?

I wish their answers were different every time I asked. It’s not. They answer the same way. They say, “Yes. It does.”

So, living in Kentucky makes them a better basketball fan, off court referee, game caller, recliner coach and observer of the game than any other human being on the face of the planet. Great.

For a while, this sentiment caused me some great distress. Then, I started thinking. UK fans aren’t alone in that type of thinking.

When I was in seminary, it was hard to find a church to attend in Louisville. Most churches had developed “seminary classes.” They didn’t like having seminary students in their “regular classes.” Know why? Because seminary students are know-it-alls. They tear down the teacher, tell him why he’s wrong, and challenge his every statement. It got pretty pitiful. It was hard to find a teacher for those classes.

When I was pastoring, I thought I was smarter than everyone in my congregation. I felt superior. Boy, was I wrong. I should have been submitting to them. Instead, I got proud, high and mighty. I should have been their servant, but instead I placed myself over them as their superior.

Kentucky fans think they know everything about basketball because they were born in the blessed Bluegrass. Not so. There’s not much humility in most Kentucky fans. Similarly, there’s not much humility in a man with a Master of Divinity. Or a pastor. Or a church member who relies on his education.

Christ calls us to be weak people. He wants us weak. He desires us to cast ourselves upon him while we are weak so that we might glorify His strength.

Wish I’d seen it coming years ago. Christ, our broken, bleeding Savior, is our role model. Let it always be.

Related article:

Why Seminary Can Never Qualify Anyone For Ministry” by Hershael York

__________________

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.

Is Your Heart Right? & “Is Whitney Houston in Heaven?”

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in Christ, compassion, criticize, forgiveness, God, grace, Heart, judgment, mercy, salvation, sanctification | Posted on 22-02-2012

2

I’m taking a short hiatus for a few days. I’m having a procedure done on my heart called an ablation. I’ve been having issues with my heart speeding up whenever it darn well pleases over the past ten years. It came to a head over a month ago when I ended up in the emergency room with a heart rate of 250.

On Thursday, a surgeon will go into my heart, fiddle with it for about four hours and then burn a little place on it to make it stop. Good times.

Easy blog post topic. Is my heart right? Nope. Can I fix it? Nope. Only a trained medical professional can. And I trust him to put me under and make me right again.

In the same way, all of us have heart issues that need to be dealt with. Desperately. Whether they are sins that we continually struggle with or personality flaws, they need to be diagnosed. Guess who the worst person to diagnose them is? Us. When we ask ourselves if we have a problem, we rarely ever think we do.

That’s why we have God’s objective Word to root out our sin. Read it, cling to it, apply it to your heart and see if the Master Physician doesn’t give you a diagnosis. Don’t stay away from the parts you don’t like either. Read it all.

When you’re ready to be healed, he will heal. Completely.

Which brings me to one final thought before I head into my Thursday surgery. I wrote an article about the death of Whitney Houston for Provoketive Magazine. Since her death, a lot of Christians have been arguing whether she is in heaven or hell. If you listen to the overwhelming voices of the Christians, you would come to the conclusion that she is in hell.

I don’t have a dog in the fight when it comes to Whitney Houston. I know she was raised in a Christian home, claimed to have professed her faith in Christ and had many high and low points in her life.

I think what surprises me is how willing the Christian majority is to pass judgment upon someone and pronounce hell upon them.  Frankly, it’s rather scary.

What I see in the New Testament is a call to be regenerated. Something only God can do. By Christ, we are justified. When God looks at us, He no longer sees us, but His Son. God no longer judges us on our merits or works but on the work of Christ. That’s a good thing.

In the words of Paul, does that give us license to sin more? Heaven forbid it!

We are called to live a life of sanctification, holiness, pleasing to God. We are, with the aid of the Holy Spirit, to persevere in our faith until the end.

Will it always be easy? Will we fail? Will we falter? Will we fall? Yes. I’m living proof. But he picks us up over and over again. Who does he pick up? Those who seek him out. Those who belong to him.

He’s revealed to us as a Father. We’re his kids. We go astray like a bunch of sheep. Should we? No. But we do. He disciplines us when we do. But like a good Father, if we are truly His, He never gives up on us. Ever.

I’ve heard a lot of well-meaning Christians say that Ms. Houston is in hell. I don’t know. It’s not a topic to be thrown around on the Internet carelessly. I do know this. When we are chosen by God, when we become one with Christ, when He becomes our Father forever, nothing can take us away from Him. Can a person get caught up in a sinful lifestyle with guilt and regret, knowing they need to return to God? Yes.

What does this look like? When the sinner (backslidden alcoholic, addict, fornicator, etc.) comes to the church and says, “I messed up, can God forgive me? Will you forgive me?” The church’s response is, “Of course, we do. God forgives.”

Fast forward six months down the road. The same thing happens. Same words. The church says, “You’re still having trouble, we want to help you still because God helps you still.”

What if it happens over and over? Does the church give up? Does God give up? I think the answer is to be found in the heart of a person who is truly repentant over their sin and seeking restoration and holiness and a person who just doesn’t care. Those who return to the Lord for help are those who are seeking Him

And the Christian fellowship should be right there alongside those people with encouragement, love and offering hope. God gave us each other in this murky world. It’s not an easy place to be. I fear that those who cast the most judgment are those who have never fallen far, and I hope they never do. They are those who have never come face to face with the absolute need for grace and forgiveness of God.

May we all be more sensitive toward those in our world who need restoration and light.

Fallen Pastor: Who This Book is For – Including My Past Self

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, book, criticize, culture, fallenness, forgiveness, gossip, pastoring, pastors, preachers, pride, reconciliation, restoration | Posted on 04-02-2012

2

My book has been out for a month. I’ve had two book signings. Several book reviews. And a lot of personal feedback.

I want to be very honest with you. I had an expectation of who would read my book – pastors. But that hasn’t been the case. The people who are buying and reading the book are mostly the people in the pews. They are people who people who can be put in several categories.

First, there are people who know me and are curious about my story. They just wanted to know about my story. They wanted to hear what I had to say. Overwhelmingly, they’ve said, “Ray, you’ve been humbled, and you’ve learned a lot. And in reading your book, I’ve learned a lot about what it means to forgive people.”

Second, there are people who were curious about pastors and the battles they face on a daily basis. They’ve said to me, “Ray, I had no idea what pastors face. I had no idea that the struggles were so intense.”

Next were pastors who said, “You nailed it. I face those pressures on a daily basis. It reminds me that I need to be careful about the dangers around me. The stories in the book remind me of the sin that is so close to me. I don’t want to go there. I don’t want to fall. I don’t want to lose everything.”

Then, there are people who have fallen in their own right. They weren’t pastors. They’re just Christians who fell in their own lives in adultery or some other way. They were afraid to say anything. They’ve said to me, “This book has given me a voice. It’s let me know that even pastors aren’t above failure. Everyone sins. And I know I can be restored again to Christ.”

Finally – and this one is difficult for me. There are people who buy the book and they never say anything to me directly. They are people who don’t like it. They think I’m a hypocrite still. They think I stood in the pulpit for eight years and was a liar for the entire time. They think my entire ministry was a failure for the sin I committed at the end of it. I never hear their voices, but I hear it from other people through second hand information.

And that’s absolutely okay with me. It gets posted on message boards. It gets passed on to me through gossip. Once upon a time, that kind of talk would bother me. But not now. I fell. And I fell terribly. I can see where someone would think my entire ministry was a sham because of the sin I committed. I can absolutely see that.

I stood in the pulpit and preached the word of God for eight years. I baptized people, visited the sick, loved a congregation and gave people my best, but in the end, I will be remembered as an adulterer to many. I deserve that if people want to think that. That is the fallout of my sin. That is the consequence of my sin. I have to live with that. All I can do is live a life that is holy and pleasing to God from this day forward.

The aim of my book is to help those who have fallen. To help those who are in the ministry and prevent a fall. To help those in church to understand the risks their pastors face. Pastors are human. They are in a dangerous culture that places dangerous expectations upon them. Many times, they chase after unrealistic expectations of ministry that stresses out their marriages and places them at horrible risk.

I wrote the book to warn people. I don’t care if I ever make a dime on this book. At this moment, I haven’t made a single red cent. My heart is to make sure that the church knows that there needs to be reform so that their pastors won’t be at risk. What we need are churches that don’t just care about Sunday to Sunday. But churches that care about authentic Christian community seek it week to week.

I crave a church, regardless of denomination to embrace their members, love them for who they are, despite their faults, including their pastor. And if and when a member of the congregation falls, seek them out to restore them. Not ignore them, but find them out as we are commanded to. The body of Christ is incomplete without any of our members.

Because the most important group I wrote this book for is those pastors out there who say, “That’s never going to happen to me.” I’ve met several of them. A few of them have bought books from me. I have talked with them. I was that guy.

In fact, if I could go back in time and taken the 2005 version of myself and brought him to my book signing, I know exactly what he would have thought:

“Look at this loser. He fell in the ministry. Selling books. What a jerk. He couldn’t hold fast to his call. I’ll buy his book. But I’ll put it on my shelf next to the other 400 books I haven’t written. I’m not going to fall. I have a seminary degree. That will never happen to me. I guess some guys are just like that.”

That’s who this book is for. Among others. It was for me. About a decade ago.

I hope you will read “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World.” Not because I want to sell copies. But because the church of Jesus Christ needs to be restored to a true fellowship.

Another Fallen Pastor, More Judging.

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, affair, bitterness, criticize, hate, hypocrisy, judgment, megachurch, pastors | Posted on 17-08-2011

2

I just read a story about Zachery Tims, pastor of a megachurch in Orlando, Florida. Never heard of him before tonight. Apparently, he was found dead in New York from a drug overdose. The article I link tells of his roller coaster past.

He had one of the largest churches in central Florida – over 7,000 members.

As a young man, he was in and out of jail.

As a pastor, he had started a youth center  in 2005 in hopes that it would help kids stay out of trouble.

In 2009, he and his wife divorced after he admitted to an affair with a stripper that had lasted over a year.

Funny how a man’s life can be summed up in less than 500 words. However, the public can chime in and say whatever they want these days in the “comment” section. Here’s a sampling that made me weep:

Oh Brother Tim’s we forgive you. That white powder was baby powder you were handing out to un-wed mothers. The hooker you were boffing was just a misunderstanding,you were really administering to her soul. The prison time you spent was just a test of your faith. It’s a shame that the woman you were married to for 15yrs. turned out to be such a bad person. Imagine leaving you after all that time just bcause of an alledged affair, where is that womans faith Rev. Tim’s?

Hypocrites, Most of these right wing church pastors and their flock of sheeple, love money more than God.

RIGHT ON! This guy was up to no good-he probably is warm enough where he resides now. ETERNITY IS FOREVER!

The paper reported that Tims had been in and out of jail as a young man… In 2009, Tims and his wife Riva divorced after he admitted to a year-long affair with a stripper. Sounds qualified to me to tell others how they should live their lives, eh? Petty criminal and a cheat – just what you’d want standing in the pulpit……. Sheesh.

I don’t know this man. I don’t know his theology or his life or his ambitions. However, I do know one thing. It’s not right to throw stones at a dead horse.

None of us knows his heart, the pressure he was under or what changes he had made in his life. All we know about him is what we read in 500 words. It sure is easy to judge a man by a news article.

How would any of us feel if someone were given a brief, 2 minute synopsis of our life then were allowed to judge us quickly based on what they heard? I doubt we would like it. Did this man make grievous errors and sins? Absolutely. He sinned and messed up tremendously. However, it is not for the public to judge. It is not for us to “comment” on. All of us are wretched and if our lives were to be openly displayed online for public comment, we would fare no better than Zachery Tims.

It is very easy to comment anonymously from our computers on the downward path of a fallen pastor who strayed with a stripper and died from a cocaine overdose than to look within our own wretched hearts, isn’t it? Each of us are lawbreakers. If our secret lives were displayed so openly, we would have to run for cover while people bombarded our Facebook and Twitter accounts with harsh, unloving messages for months.

So I might suggest to commenters at large . . . you’re not any different than a fallen pastor. All of us are hypocrites. Just some of us have further to fall.

A Message From The Past

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in affair, Allison, anger, apology, church, church members, compassion, criticize, judgment, pastoring, regret | Posted on 21-06-2011

17

Allison and I are in beautiful New Orleans enjoying a business/personal vacation that is well needed for us. It’s a good time of quiet and rest.

It’s given me time to reflect on my book and the process of writing and my attitude over the past couple of years and hopefully how I’ve changed. My relationships with people have gotten better, but I still have a long way to go.

Last night, I got up during one of my usual restless spells and checked my email and saw there was a comment to be moderated for my blog. I didn’t publish it. At first I thought it was from someone who didn’t know me who was just trying to push my buttons, but they knew too many details.

It’s from one of my former church members. I’m not typing this out to make a point about them. I’ll get to my point in a minute. Here’s some of the text:

“I’ve read your blog a bit, along with your wife’s. Now, The lord loves honesty and that’s what i’m going to give you. My opinion: You were a horrible pastor, just as you are a horrible writer. Now I sit there in the pew nice and quiet like, but goodness gracious when you were going on and on about the same old thing for 45 minutes, I almost fell asleep. And I never fell asleep in church before then, and I sure don’t now. I mean good Christ mister, how many times you gotta say that relationships are the juice of the lord’s loins? Spit it out junior.

But I did like that part where you cried. Just cried and cried and cried. Oh Lordy, I laughed my dentures out. Now that Allison, she’s a doozy of a *****. Now i shouldn’t be so judgmental, but i am. We all have our faults and the lord will forgive me. He’ll forgive me, for thinking that you’re a hypocritical piece of ****. I have alot more to say but, i think instead of telling you, i’m a gonna write me a little blog titled “Church still disgusted with the fallen pastor and his **** wife”, Under my username “God hates you”. Everything is hunky dory for you right now son, but just you be a waitin. The lord aint gonna punish you foolish kids fer your actions but theres this here thing called karma and shes a big ol’ ****, and some day soon.. she’s gonna find you. Word of advice, I hope you were at least smart enough to choose a church that has a pastor whom is too old and unattractive for your ******wife to seduce, be careful there partner and if things shall get rough, DON’T LET HER GET MARRIAGE COUNSELLING FROM YOUR PASTOR. DON’T DO IT.
With Love,
A former member of ******** Church.”

I didn’t publish the name of my former church and won’t ever mention it on this blog. There’s no purpose in it. I was the one who sinned. They have every right to be angry. And one bad email from one angry person doesn’t mean all of them feel that way. Several of them have been very kind to me and it has made my heart glad.

On to my point, this email didn’t make either of us upset. Six months out of my sin, it would have ticked me off terribly. In fact, I wrote a passive aggressive letter to my church that I never should have written about a year out. I hadn’t fully repented and I was angry at everyone.

The most important thing I’ve learned in all of this was from a pastor who said, “Ray, you don’t get to judge someone else’s reaction to your sin.” Even if they go too far and get angry, start name calling or even shoot me in the head, I don’t get to judge them. Why? Because they’re angry over what I did. He’s  right. I have to extend them grace, patience and love. The same grace, patience and love I want to be extended. The same grace, patience and love Christ extended to me.

You know what? It’s really not that hard when you’ve hit the bottom. Once you’ve lost it all, been at the bottom and all you could see when you were looking up is the hand of God reaching down, you can give the same to others.

For the rest of my life, I will, as David said, have my sin ever before me. There will always be consequences for my actions. I hope that the person who wrote that can find peace in life and with God, and eventually with me. I’m terribly sorry for the hurt I caused them. I’m sorry I failed them as a pastor and pray they will find a contented life now.

For me, I pray for better choices and a life clothed in my redeemed Savior. For me and my beautiful wife.

POST UPDATE:

I got a response from the original writer, same IP address and email. It was a little harsher and needs more editing. Again, I really don’t believe this person represents the feelings of my old church. Several of the people I’ve talked to have been kind to me. However, this response shows the hurt a pastor can cause when he disrupts a church when he falls and the anger that can remain:

Dear Mr. Ray Carrol,

We all hate ya, and none of us want your “grace, compassion, or patience”. You can shove all that right up your devil-lovin’ ***. Also, thinkin’ you’re forgiven for your sin because you prayed for it doesn’t change a thing. You’re still living your sin! Rather than making amends with your family and your ex-wife, you married that cheatin’ Allison! Where’s the regret, the guilt? You betrayed God’s commandments to man and chose to live in adultery. Gettin’ married don’t make it no better. You’ll burn, mister.

Thanks for listenin’, and I hope when you meet the little Baby Jesus and Allah Lord of Lords at the gangplank to the Millenium Falcon with Chewie and Buddha ridin’ shotgun, they greet you with open arms! (otherwise your deviled eggs)

Signed,
Your friends at ***** ****Church

My Response:

The compassion, love and grace I offer is real. I also offer forgiveness to you. Whether you accept it is up to you. I do know that I have been forgiven by God. My sin was great. My fall was great.

I also know that all sin is abominable in His sight. However, thanks to Christ, it is also freely forgiven. Not because of anything I have done, but because of what He did for me at the cross. What grieves me the most is not the sin I committed at my former church or the impact it had. What grieves me most is that my sin was responsible for the death of my Savior. But I am thankful that His grace abounds to save even a wretch like me. I am thirsty for that grace. When no one else seemed to come after me in my darkness, He was there, calling for me.

Before I fell I was pompous, prideful, arrogant and thought I knew it all. Now I realize I knew nothing. All I really need to know is a Savior who gave all for me. I’m still not perfect, still not humble, still not really much of anything. I’m still a sinner. But each day I’m trying to look away from what I want and toward what He wants.

I hope someday you will forgive me and release your anger. I hope someday you will find peace. Maybe you can start by showing what you wrote to me to your pastor and seek his help in studying the Word. Christ wants all his children to be at peace.

What I really desire is what I have been given by a handful of people since my fall and I hope to be given by more who witnessed my fall. It is found in 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.”

That is my hope and prayer.