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Fallen Pastors and Divorce

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, affair, Allison, conflict, culture, divorce, fallenness, forgiveness, grace, Hershael York, marriage, reconciliation, relationships | Posted on 25-04-2014

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2percentThis isn’t an easy post. Some fallen pastors who have committed adultery end up with the woman they commit adultery with. I was one. How should we approach the issue of fallen pastors and divorce?

Let me share with you a couple of things before I start. The statistic is non-negotiable – 2% of marriages that are built on adultery succeed. You get that? That means if you marry someone that you commit adultery with, you are looking down the barrel of a 98% failure rate.

Now, let me share with you this quote from Dr. Hershael York, preaching professor who I interviewed for my book. He had a great reason why marriages built on affairs don’t really last. It’s because when you’re engaged in an affair, it’s really a fantasy world that you can come and go from. It’s not a true relationship that is founded on the marriage ideal:

Every time you have an affair with anybody, I don’t care who you are, in a sense, you’re having an affair with a fantasy and not a real person. Because the person you’ve got to pay the mortgage with, deal with the kids’ soccer schedule with, the one whose vomit you wipe up when they’re sick, that’s the real person you live with. Twenty minutes in the sack on a Tuesday afternoon is really not love. You’ve got to tell yourself that. You’ve got to awaken yourself to the fact that it’s fantasy. If you end up with the person you had an affair with, I guarantee you once you get married you have to face the same issues and same struggles. You cannot take two totally depraved human beings, stick them in the same house and not have friction.” (Fallen Pastor, p. 172)

He’s right. The thrill of the affair is not the same as a marriage covenant.

I did in fact, marry Allison, who was the woman I met and had an affair with. We are still here after four years. We are not the norm. I do not encourage fallen pastors to run after the women they had an affair with. For some reason, Allison and I have made it work. She is great for me. She loves me for who I am and I love her with all my heart. Does that make our sin right? Nope. But we are here, attempting to move on past what we did and trying to live a life of holiness.

I’ve often said that pastors don’t just wake up one day and say, “I think I’ll commit adultery today.” They don’t. It takes a long time to get to that point. Know this – their sin is their responsibility. There are factors that weaken them and I list them in my book – poor relationship with spouse, overly high expectations, church conflict, isolation and many times a huge trauma.

pastorkidsOne thing that many fallen pastors don’t think about is what the fallout will be. When I was on the road to leaving my wife and the ministry, I just knew I wanted to be with Allison. I knew it would cost me my job and the contact I had with my children.

When I finally got caught, it became more real to me. It was all over. All of it. Especially the contact I would have with my children.

I won’t sit here and tell you that it was an easy thing. It was the most difficult thing. In fact, all of the fallen pastors I talk to tell me that losing full time contact with their children in cases of divorce is the most devastating thing for them.

There are some statistics that should bother anyone involved in church today. The statistic that a vast majority of ministry couples feel that serving in the church has a detrimental effect upon their marriage. That most ministry couples experience anxiety and depression.

People ask me, “Would you do it again if you had the chance?” I don’t like hypothetical questions. What I do consider is being able to provide for my children, making sure they are happy, and being involved with them and being free to talk with them when they desire.

They are daddy’s girls. I am proud to say they love me. We discuss things that I know they only share with me. They know what I did was a sin, but they love me anyway.

Divorce is a terrible, sinful thing. They know this. But each time I see them, they wrap their arms around me and call me “Daddy.” They love me despite my flaws and care about the ministry I’m involved in now.

What is the point I’m driving at? Well, there are two. First, if you are a pastor who is thinking about adultery, please think about the consequences. If you fall, it will effect everyone around you. Your church, your wife, your kids and people in the community. If there is something there to salvage, work on it.

Secondly, if you have fallen, do what it takes to work things out with your family. Your kids, parents, siblings, trustgrandparents, whomever. Not everyone will be easy to trust or forgive you right away. You need to understand that you are the one who sinned. If you are truly repentant and understand grace, then you will give people time to heal.

Divorce is a serious thing. Fallen pastors, are you ready to go into those proceedings? Many hurt pastor’s wives want to leave you immediately. It’s because they are hurt. They often listen to the counsel of their family or those in the church who are hurt as they are. If you want your wife back, try to get an impartial mediator involved.

If divorce is pursued, seek the heart of Christ. Don’t be an angry person. Always be thinking about your children. Don’t respond with hatred when hatred is thrown back at you. Remember that the reason your spouse is acting as she does is because you did what you did. Show true, repentant humility.

You might not be able to stop a divorce, but beginning with true, Christ-like humility can put you on the right step toward a lifetime journey of repentance and holiness.

Finally, I will tell you this. When a wife has been cheated on, she has the right to be angry. Don’t expect her to forgive you or gain your trust overnight. I’ve seen a lot of fallen pastors say to their wives within months of the act of adultery, “God says you should forgive me.” Wrong approach. When we commit adultery, we have caused depths of hurt that we do not understand.

Step back, repent to God and allow Him to work on the hearts of others. Know that trust takes a long time to be restored. It may never be restored. I’ve seen fallen pastors whose wives never forgive them or always hold their adultery over their head.

How does one respond to that? With grace. With the same grace we desire after we committed adultery. We cannot expect to change anyone’s heart but our own. When you sin, turn to God. Allow Him to change in you what it is that went wrong. Even if your marriage ends in divorce, be patient with others. Allow God to make you a new person.

As Dr. York taught me, “Make your repentance more notorious than your sin.”

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

____________________________

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

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

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

The Devastated Spouse: The Wounded Church, pt. 2

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, affair, church, church members, counseling, divorce, pastors, reconciliation, relationships, wife | Posted on 11-11-2013

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In this series, I’m trying to address all of the people who are effected by the fall of a pastor. Not only that, I’m asking, upwifewhat can everyone do in the wake of his fall?

I get emails each week from many different people; pastors who just fell, wives whose husbands fell, churches whose pastors fell, etc. – and most are in a state of panic. “What happens now? What am I supposed to do right now?

There are no easy answers. There isn’t a handbook that gives a quick answer. I’d love to say the book I wrote has easy, fast answers for everyone to patch up the damage that has just been inflicted. But in the wake of a fall, it takes time, understanding, patience and a willingness to forgive.

Today’s article is  on a very sensitive topic – the devastated spouse. I feel completely unqualified to write this because as the fallen pastor, I hurt my former wife. I’m not going to discuss my previous relationship, instead, I will rely on the interviews I did for my book, “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World,” and the interactions I’ve had since then.

A lot of dynamics occur with the spouse of the fallen pastor after the fall.  These are the things I’ve seen happen over and over again. At the end of this post, I’ll try and resolve what can be done. I hope. But know this beforehand – I have all the respect in the world for the spouses whose partners fall from ministry. I grieve for them. I get emails from them. I hurt for them. And I want to be able to one day make it possible so that no pastor ever falls from the ministry again. Unrealistic? Maybe. But that’s my hope.

The Horrible Truth About Ministry Marriages

In my book, I quote a lot of statistics. I’m about to repeat some of them here.

- 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

- 77% of pastors said they did not have a good marriage

Cover2- 30% of pastors said they had either been in an ongoing affair or a one-time sexual a encounter with a parishioner

- 81% of pastors report insufficient time with their spouse

- 64% report communication difficulties with their spouse

- 46% report sexual problems with their spouse

- 80% believed pastoral ministry affected their families negatively

Its easy to see your pastor as a person who has it all together. Perfect home. Perfect family. Perfect life. But statistics show that he is under a great deal of stress. In my last post, I detailed how many pastors chase after the church as his first mistress. In doing so, he loses touch and intimacy with his wife.

Ministry is very hard on a couple. Unless they are strongly grounded in Christ, have friends to mentor them, have the full support of the church, and keep communicating intentionally, they may have a course set for disaster.

Someone to Love, Someone to Hate

A wise friend once told me that after the fall of a pastor, things get really nasty. In fact, a dichotomy takes place. The church has to have someone to love and someone to hate.

My whole reason for writing the book was to show that there is a problem in the church culture. When the pastor sins, we throw him to the curb immediately. Scripture tells us to restore him. But our hurt and eventual anger compels us to jettison him completely.

In turn, the church begins to hate the pastor. We have an enemy. The pastor. Then, we find someone to love. The pastor’s spouse. I’ve seen it over and over. The church lavishes their attention on the pastor’s spouse who has been wronged. And rightly so. She should be helped. She has been abandoned and left alone. Their spouse has committed adultery.

My only concern in this realm is when people come alongside the spouse and say things like, “He was no good anyway. counselYou need to pursue divorce.” What the spouse needs is comfort. The spouse has been betrayed and needs to work through things. Quick advice will not help. Godly advice will. The spouse needs people to walk with her. To listen to her rants, her grief, her pain, and her feelings.

The ultimate goal of the church should be restoration of any sinner to Christ. But the goal of any broken marriage should be the attempt of restoration. That takes time and people who are willing to walk with them. Quick fixes are not available to anyone in this situation.

Encourage wise people to aid the spouse. People who can help her in her hurt, pain, and grief. To walk with her and the children.

The Final Outcome

What happens in the end between the fallen pastor and his spouse is ultimately their business. It is very personal. This is a very touchy issue. If restoration comes between them, then it should be celebrated. If not, then the church should still love both equally.

Right now, you’re thinking, “Heck no! The pastor is the one who cheated! He should be scorned and left to his own devices!

Before I fell, I would agree. But that was before I completely understood the compassion and grace of Christ. Jesus showed us that no one is beyond repair. No one is beyond forgiveness. Everyone is worth pursuing. He pursued us, didn’t He?

As for the pastor’s spouse, they are to be loved, but not pitied. They are to be helped and given grace as the pastor is. They need counsel just as the pastor does. Restoration to one another is best. But if it is not to be had, the church is to rally around reality.

Where do we go from here? We treat them as people. People just like us. Love them. Accept them. Never give up on them. Because Jesus never would.

____________________

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.

Fallen Pastors and Divorce

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, affair, divorce, fallenness, pastors | Posted on 06-07-2013

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This isn’t an easy post. Many fallen pastors who have committed adultery end up with the woman they commit adultery2percent with. I was one.

Let me share with you a couple of things before I start. The statistic is non-negotiable – 2% of marriages that are built on adultery succeed. You get that? That means if you marry someone that you commit adultery with, you are looking down the barrel of a 98% failure rate.

Now, let me share with you this quote from Dr. Hershael York, preaching professor who I interviewed for my book. He had a great reason why marriages built on affairs don’t really last. It’s because when you’re engaged in an affair, it’s really a fantasy world that you can come and go from. It’s not a true relationship that is founded on the marriage ideal:

Every time you have an affair with anybody, I don’t care who you are, in a sense, you’re having an affair with a fantasy and not a real person. Because the person you’ve got to pay the mortgage with, deal with the kids’ soccer schedule with, the one whose vomit you wipe up when they’re sick, that’s the real person you live with. Twenty minutes in the sack on a Tuesday afternoon is really not love. You’ve got to tell yourself that. You’ve got to awaken yourself to the fact that it’s fantasy. If you end up with the person you had an affair with, I guarantee you once you get married you have to face the same issues and same struggles. You cannot take two totally depraved human beings, stick them in the same house and not have friction.” (Fallen Pastor, p. 172)

He’s right. The thrill of the affair is not the same as a marriage covenant.

I did in fact, marry Allison, who was the woman I met and had an affair with. We are still here after four years. We are not the norm. I do not encourage fallen pastors to run after the women they had an affair with. For some reason, Allison and I have made it work. She is great for me. She loves me for who I am and I love her with all my heart. Does that make our sin right? Nope. But we are here, attempting to move on past what we did and trying to live a life of holiness.

I’ve often said that pastors don’t just wake up one day and say, “I think I’ll commit adultery today.” They don’t. It takes a long time to get to that point. Know this – their sin is their responsibility. There are factors that weaken them and I list them in my book – poor relationship with spouse, overly high expectations from the church, church conflict, isolation and many times a huge trauma.

pastorkidsOne thing that many fallen pastors don’t think about is what the fallout will be. When I was on the road to leaving my wife and the ministry, I just knew I wanted to be with Allison. I knew it would cost me my job and the contact I had with my children.

When I finally got caught, it became more real to me. It was all over. All of it. Especially the contact I would have with my children.

I won’t sit here and tell you that it was an easy thing. It was the most difficult thing. In fact, all of the fallen pastors I talk to tell me that losing full time contact with their children in cases of divorce is the most devastating thing for them.

I can read the statistics all I want. That a vast majority of ministry couples feel that serving in the church has a detrimental effect upon their marriage. That most ministry couples experience anxiety and depression.

People ask me, “Would you do it again if you had the chance?” I don’t like hypothetical questions. What I do consider is being able to provide for my children, making sure they are happy, and being involved with them and being free to talk with them when they desire.

They are daddy’s girls. I am proud to say they love me. We discuss things that I know they only share with me. They know what I did was a sin, but they love me anyway.

Divorce is a terrible, sinful thing. They know this. But each time I see them, they wrap their arms around me and call me “Daddy.” They love me despite my flaws and care about the ministry I’m involved in now.

What is the point I’m driving at? Well, there are two. First, if you are a pastor who is thinking about adultery, please think about the consequences. If you fall, it will effect everyone around you. Your church, your wife, your kids and people in the community. If there is something there to salvage, work on it.

Secondly, if you have fallen, do what it takes to work things out with your family. Your kids, parents, siblings, trustgrandparents, whomever. Not everyone will be easy to trust or forgive you right away. You need to understand that you are the one who sinned. If you are truly repentant and understand grace, then you will give people time to heal.

Divorce is a serious thing. Fallen pastors, are you ready to go into those proceedings? Many hurt pastor’s wives want to leave you immediately. It’s because they are hurt. They often listen to the counsel of their family or those in the church who are hurt as they are. If you want your wife back, try to get an impartial mediator involved.

If divorce is pursued, seek the heart of Christ. Don’t be an angry person. Always be thinking about your children. Don’t respond with hatred when hatred is thrown back at you. Remember that the reason your spouse is acting as she does is because you did what you did. Show true, repentant humility.

You might not be able to stop a divorce, but beginning with true, Christ-like humility can put you on the right step toward a lifetime journey of repentance and holiness.

Finally, I will tell you this. When a wife has been cheated on, she has the right to be angry. Don’t expect her to forgive you or gain your trust overnight. I’ve seen a lot of fallen pastors say to their wives within months of the act of adultery, “God says you should forgive me.” Wrong approach. When we commit adultery, we have caused depths of hurt that we do not understand.

Step back, repent to God and allow Him to work on the hearts of others. Know that trust takes a long time to be restored. It may never be restored. I’ve seen fallen pastors whose wives never forgive them or always hold their adultery over their head.

How does one respond to that? With grace. With the same grace we desire after we committed adultery. We cannot expect to change anyone’s heart but our own. When you sin, turn to God. Allow Him to change in you what it is that went wrong. Even if your marriage ends in divorce, be patient with others. Allow God to make you a new person.

As Dr. York taught me, “Make your repentance more notorious than your sin.”

Men Who Smell Like Pigs: Restoring a Fallen Pastor

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, brokenness, churches, counseling, divorce, fallenness, forgiveness, Hershael York, ministry, pastoring, pastors, repentance, Uncategorized | Posted on 01-07-2013

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repentaI’ve been ministering to fallen pastors for over three years now through my book and this blog. It’s been a unique joy and blessing. Recently, I’ve been taking the stance that all churches, members and leaders need to be more involved with taking care of a pastor when he falls from the ministry due to sexual immorality.

Today, I’m not going to give you reasons why we should because I’ve done that before. I want to share with you one of the most rewarding things that happens when you care for and pursue a fallen, sinful pastor – you get to see and share in his restoration.

And so you’ll know what I mean by restoration – I mean to be restored to Christ. Will a fallen pastor ever be restored to ministry? That’s a different topic. When a man has fallen from the pulpit and sinned, he needs to focus on a right relationship with Christ first. Because his relationship with Christ went wrong way before his marriage or church relationship ever started failing.

There are two types of fallen pastors. Both guys typically get kicked to the curb by their churches. But the first type has a little bit of hope to get some help by his association or his church.

The first type is the pastor who gets caught red-handed. His sin is discovered and his is approached with it by his wife or leaders of the church. His response is an almost immediate desire to do what is right and repent. He may not have a heart full of repentance right away. He may still have lingering, sinful desires – but you have to remember his adultery went on for a while. But if he shows any signs of wanting to break free, he needs your help.

The first type reminds me of Peter when Christ restored him in John 20. Jesus asked him three times if he loved him and jesusandpetePeter answered three times that he did. “Lord, you know I love you.”

The tricky thing about a newly fallen pastor is that he may think he can fix himself. Any pastor who falls needs a group of people around him to help restore him, work through his sin and toward brokenness. I write about brokenness in my book and on this blog. It is essential that any man who has fallen from the pulpit come to a point where they understand the devastation their sin caused and run back to God. Dr. Hershael York helped me understand this point while I was working on my book.

If a man refuses to be guided by a group of other Christians or be accountable, that’s a huge red flag. I’ll be honest – in my experience and after talking to others who deal with fallen pastors across the country – restoration to Christ and true brokenness takes at least a year and possibly up to 18 months. God takes His time in dealing with the hearts of His people and I’m glad He does. He does it lovingly and patiently. But there does come a moment when he breaks us.

Of all the fallen pastors I’ve talked to who have been restored, most of them remember the day God broke them. They can remember the day their sin became real. It was part of a process. Most of those moments are very personal, but God does work on our hearts.

The second type of fallen pastor is the one hardly any church, association, other pastor, family member or denominational leader wants to deal with. It’s the pastor who commits adultery, won’t listen to anyone, gets a divorce from his wife and is gone. Now, there is typically more story in there that no one will ever hear or want to hear, but the bottom line is this – here is a guy who sinned, got kicked out of church and home, and no one wants to deal with him.

I believe we must reach this man too. I was this man. When these men email me, they have my full, undivided attention. Know why? Because I’ve noticed in this group, there is a trending rate toward self-abuse, depression and self-hatred. When is it okay to push a sinning pastor to the side and let him go?

I can’t do it. I don’t ever condone his sin, but I will forever be his friend. Know why? Because I believe that one day, God can and will do something to radically change his heart. And when he does, I don’t want that pastor to say, “No one in the church believes in me. I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing.”

sonfatherI hate stretching parables out and making more of them than we’re supposed to, but I’m going to.

Imagine the prodigal son, who has wasted his father’s wealth and now finds himself among the pigs. He stinks like a pig. He is helpless and hopeless. The Bible says that the son “came to himself.” That is what happens to many fallen pastors after a period of weeks, months or years. I’ve seen it. They snap out of it.

Anyway, the pig-smelly son decides to go back to his father’s house and attempt to at least get a job there. But we all know what happens. His father runs to meet him, not welcoming him back as a second class citizen, but as his son. See, the father didn’t embrace him and say, “Boy, where have you been for the past twelve weeks? You smell like pig!” Regardless of where the son had been, or where he had been dwelling, or how he smelled, he was still his son.

Cue the rest of the parable (that never gets preached on) and we find the older brother who is angry. He’s angry because he’s always been there for dad. But dad decided to throw a party because they found the pig-smelling son who ran off and spent money. The older son is indignant. The father says, “Son, you should rejoice because what was once lost is now found.” No, the older brother isn’t having that. He’s angry. He’s always been there. His brother ran off like a little jerk. Now he comes back smelling like a pig and he gets a party.

Point? I love all the fallen pastors who come my way, regardless of how they smell. In fact, I don’t even notice the smell. I know eventually, God is going to grab hold of them and take care of them. Restoration to Christ is really God’s job, I just get to help facilitate that. And it’s an overwhelming joy and honor

But it should be happening in the communities where these men live. And I pray someday it will.

__________________

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.

Lashing Out After A Pastor Falls: How Bad It Can Get

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, affair, anger, bitterness, blame, church, church members, communication, conflict, counseling, divorce, family, forgiveness, Hershael York, humillity, hurt, marriage, reconciliation, repentance, restoration | Posted on 10-05-2013

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hurtspLately, both Allison and I have been ministering to fallen ministers and their significant others. A recurring theme has arisen in many of these conversations: “How angry is the ex-wife/husband in the relationship allowed to get?”

Obviously, I have experience in this arena. I hurt my ex horribly with my actions. Hurt is the emotion that arises first, then anger. Then, both of those actions work together in an often disastrous mix. I’m happy to say my former wife and I have a good relationship today.

The sin of adultery is one that cuts right to the core of humanity. Have I felt it? No, but I am the one who caused the hurt. Since my fall from ministry, I have talked to those who have been on both sides of the fence. I have heard stories of messy divorces, arguments in public, punches thrown, and angry things said to children. All of these are the consequences of sin.

The hurt doesn’t just extend to spouses. The hurt runs deep in the church as well. Weeks and months after the fall of the minister, church members hurt and anger can extend to gossip in the community, social media such as Facebook or personal altercations.

The fallen pastor may also take place in the lashing out process. He may engage in the same arenas of speaking out, justifying his actions, showing passive aggressive behavior, or getting defensive when approached.

All three of these groups show similar characteristics. All will probably say they are justified in their anger. The church,yelling spouse and family of the spouse will point to the fallen pastor’s actions as the touchstone of their anger. It will continually be the reason for every angry action they take. “He’s the one who sinned. He caused all of this.”

The pastor who may or may not have asked for forgiveness from God may feel that he has been forgiven. He may say, “God has forgiven me, I’m moving on.”

To be sure, it is a difficult and anxious situation. I know that being in the midst of it is a continually stressful and awful time. For this blog post, I’m going to assume any range of possibilities – that the relationship between pastor and spouse could work out or that it could end in divorce. I pray that any situation be resolved. But I’d like to throw out some suggestions that might help for anyone on either side of the situation. (Also, as a disclaimer, I’m guilty of doing most of these things wrong.)

Christ calls us to be peacemakers. This applies to both sides. Being a peacemaker is not an easy thing. Especially when the other “side” is aggressive and angry. It’s especially difficult when you are also angry and want the other side to understand your position. But when you engage yourself into the position of peacemaker, you are taking upon yourself true humility.

To do so, you have to not allow things to escalate. Regardless of what someone says to you or how they say it, you must stay calm, even and at peace. Realize that peace doesn’t come from circumstances around you, but from Christ within you. Is it difficult? Yes, but it is possible.

Read more after the jump…

Are Christians Allowed To Enjoy Life Following A Major Sin?

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, blessings, brokenness, compassion, divorce, fallenness, forgiveness, grace, holiness, jesus, judgment, ministry, pastors, preachers, restoration | Posted on 20-03-2013

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I’ve got a fallen pastor friend that I’ve grown close to. I don’t think he reads my blog, but I hope he does. He has gone through some of the same issues I went through three and a half years ago when I fell from ministry when I committed adultery.

He fell a while back from his place of ministry. He called several months ago and we had a conversation I won’t forget:pastph

Him: “I know you’ll be able to identify with me on this. At least I think you will. You’re the only one who seems to understand what I’m going through.”

Me: “Go for it.”

Him: “Since my wife and I divorced a while back, I’ve been seeing someone. Everything is going great, you know? I feel like despite everything, life is good. I couldn’t work things out with my wife. We tried, but we moved on. I have been working things out with God. I’m cautiously seeing this woman. I’m part of a church and that’s going well. But…”

Me: “Let me guess. You feel like the bottom is about to drop out because you don’t think you should be happy.”

Him: “How did you know?”

Me: “You said you thought I’d understand because I’d been there before.”

Him: “That’s right. It’s been a long road and I know I have a long way to go still. I don’t believe in karma, but I can’t put my finger on what it is. It’s like I’m waiting on the other shoe to drop. It’s like I don’t deserve to be happy after what I’ve put everyone else through. Like I don’t deserve to feel this good. It’s almost like God is out there waiting to punish me or put me down the second things really start going.”

Me: “I know exactly what you feel. But I need you to do something. Take a deep breath for a moment and listen. What you’re feeling is normal. But what you’re feeling comes from several places.

“First, guilt. I know you’re still working things out with God. You have a long way to go with the sin you committed. God is still working on you and I know He’s forgiven you, but you still have to reconcile that to yourself. You still have a lot of guilt stored up. You don’t feel like you deserve anything good after you cheated on your wife and hurt an entire congregation, right?”

guiltHim: “Yeah, you’re right.”

Me: “Next, your view of God has suffered a little. In fact, it may not have ever been exactly right. Mine never was. A lot of people see God as some dude up in heaven ready to strike us down the second we get a little bit happy. Worse, we see him as a cosmic killjoy.

“I’ve told you before about how much John 8 and the story of the woman caught in adultery means to me. She was taken to Jesus and they were ready to stone her. Jesus sent them away and He did not judge her. What did He say to her after that? ‘Is anyone left to condemn you?’ I would ask you the same question, friend. If you’ve reconciled to God, is anyone left to condemn you?

Him: “No.”

Me: “No one can stand as your judge if you are forgiven by the judge of all mankind. Only God can know that. And what does Jesus say next to her? ‘Then go and sin no more.’ Listen, Christ sees our flaws, took those sins and sacrificed Himself for them. We are, indeed, awful, wretched people. But He loves us. And thank God for that. But we are free from those sins when we are forgiven, right?”

Him: “Right. We are, but it’s difficult.”

Me: “Sure it is. Both me and my wife Allison still, at times, feel like we don’t deserve anything good in life. After we committed adultery, after I hurt an entire church, hurt my ex-wife, disappointed a community, hurt my family, I didn’t feel like I ever deserved to be happy again. And still those feelings come up once and again. But Christ doesn’t withhold His blessings from me. Do I still suffer consequences because of my sin? Sure. But I have been made pure by Christ and He no longer holds my sin against me.”

Him: “You’re right, but it’s still a struggle for me.”

Me: “And it will be. It should be. It takes time. Broken relationships with people take a long time to heal. Work on your sinrelationship with God. Live a life pleasing to Him. Work on the relationships you have that are good. When you have a chance to make things right with people, do it. Say kind words to those you have hurt. Let them see the progress Christ is making in your soul. It happens, just not overnight.”

Him: “It does take time. Thank you.”

Me: “We can sin in a moment, but coming back from it can take a very long time. But Christ is worth it. And I promise you, He wants us to be happy in His will and the life He has for us. Enjoy the life before you. Don’t spend time worrying about the sin behind you that He has forgiven. Mend those broken relationships when you can. But embrace the gracious future.”

But then again, there’s always a dissenting opinion:

The Devastated Spouse: The Wounded Church, Part 2

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, affair, church, church members, compassion, counseling, culture, divorce, fallenness, marriage, pastoring, pastors, reconciliation, repentance, restoration, wife | Posted on 17-10-2012

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In this series, I’m trying to address all of the people who are effected by the fall of a pastor. Not only that, I’m asking, what can everyone do in the wake of his fall?

I get emails each week from many different people; pastors who just fell, wives whose husbands fell, churches whose pastors fell, etc. – and most are in a state of panic. “What happens now? What am I supposed to do right now?

There are no easy answers. There isn’t a handbook that gives a quick answer. I’d love to say the book I wrote has easy, fast answers for everyone to patch up the damage that has just been inflicted. But in the wake of a fall, it takes time, understanding, patience and a willingness to forgive.

Today’s article is  on a very sensitive topic – the devastated spouse. I feel completely unqualified to write this because as the fallen pastor, I hurt my former wife. I’m not going to discuss my previous relationship, instead, I will rely on the interviews I did for my book, “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World,” and the interactions I’ve had since then with people.

Read more after the jump.

Pastoral Adultery Doesn’t Happen Overnight

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, affair, bathsheba, david, deacons, divorce | Posted on 23-05-2012

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“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?”

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 numerous 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 performance. 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. Parishoners 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 is 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. All these statistics are backed up in my book, “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World.”

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’s 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.

__________________

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 Forgiveness For The Remarried Wishful Thinking?

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, divorce, fallenness, forgiveness, God, gospel, grace, jesus, justice, law, love, mercy, remarriage, repentance, salvation, sanctification, theology | Posted on 07-09-2011

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There’s a question that keeps bombarding me from time to time. Usually, it’s shrouded in some level of judgmentalism, but sometimes, and surprisingly, it comes with an honest heart that seeks an answer.

How can anyone who has committed adultery and left their spouse to marry another ever be forgiven by God? The fact that they are now married to another person shows they are unrepentant and due to Christ’s command in the Sermon on the Mount, they are actually living in perpetual adultery.

It’s an interesting statement and something I’ve pondered, to be sure. You better believe I’ve thought about it. So have thousands of people who are now living in divorced relationships that didn’t necessarily come as a result of adultery. What is the evangelical answer to more than half of the population? “Well, I’m sorry, but you’re living in perpetual adultery. You’re out of luck.”

For some, that is the answer.

Let’s face the facts first. Adultery is a sin, horrible in the eyes of God. Divorce is a sin. It is not God’s plan for the married couple. I have no “but” or “however” to place here. Those are the facts of Scripture. I’m not going to make an excuse. That’s just it.

I don’t believe that those sins are unforgivable. Once we’ve trudged on and made our decisions before the face of God and despite His Word, we have a lot to consider. If we’ve remarried and forged ahead, there’s little to be done. Someone will say, “You shouldn’t sin to expect grace to abound.” To be gracious to that statement, I will only answer that there are millions of marriages that fail. If Christian marriages were as great as they could be, partnered by Spirit filled people who were doing what they should, within a Spirit filled community, I surmise that we would have a lot less problems. But it is futile to throw stones when we don’t have a grasp of the situation.

We do know that people sin. We do know that we shouldn’t. And we do know that millions and millions of Christian people are divorced and remarried and probably want an answer to this question.

Has Christ really looked at us and said, “Sorry, you’ve locked yourself in this box of sin. There’s nothing I can do for you this time. Unless you’re willing to divorce the person you’re with now and go back to the other person, regardless of how much has happened since then. I just don’t think I can ever forgive you. Ever.”

No, you’re not beyond forgiveness. Did you commit adultery before your marriage that led to a divorce? Then repent. Seek out your spouse and reconcile. If it doesn’t happen, don’t keep committing adultery. Stop. Repent. Turn to God.

Did you and your spouse divorce for different reasons and now you’ve remarried? Did someone tell you that you’re an adulterer because you remarried? Well, I’ll tell you what. That may be the letter of the law as some see it, but even if it is the case, it’s a one time sin. Fall upon your face, cry out to Christ and ask for forgiveness.

As one man said, “You can’t unscramble the egg.”

When they cast the adulterous woman at the feet of Christ, He didn’t waste his time with those who judged her. He spent His attention and time on her. When He finally answered them, they were ashamed and went away. Finally He said to her, “Is anyone left to condemn you? Go and sin no more.”

The act of adultery, like any other sin, does not have to be a continual act. Regardless of what the world says, when we repent, Christ makes us clean, new, sanctified people. It’s over. Now, the world may have a field day with us, but that’s all garbage. What matters most is what our Savior sees in us. He did atone for all my sins. Even the ones I committed while spitting in His face, God forgive me.

Go, sin no more. Live a life pleasing to Him. He has taken away our guilt.

1 Corinthians 6:9-11: Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Guest Blog: Joy Wilson

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in authors, civitas press, divorce, guest blog | Posted on 16-08-2011

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[It's an honor to have my friend and fellow Civitas Press author, Joy Wilson guest blog today. Check out her new book Uncensored Prayer: The Spiritual Practice of Wrestling With God (available in paperback and Kindle). I've gotten to know her online and she is a remarkable woman. The floor is yours, Joy . . .]

The Divorce

by Joy Wilson

“I’m getting a divorce,” she said, arms crossed like a shield over her heart.  “I don’t want to talk about it, but I would rather have a best friend than a husband.”  Then she left.  In and out my kitchen door in sixty seconds flat.

I knew better than to run after her.  Katharine keeps her true feelings buttoned up tight, and the fact that she came to tell me in person meant a lot to me.  This girl’s known for her loud mouth and silent heart, and I couldn’t for the life of me tell if she was callous, angry, or heart-broken.  She and her husband are kissy-face with each other on Facebook, and their posts the previous week had been no different. What happened so suddenly? Nothing.

A divorce doesn’t heat up in a microwave.  It simmers for a long time until everything good boils away and the pot cracks.  Love, trust, and respect leak out the holes, and the situation may seem irredeemable. “Nothing is impossible with God” can sound like a bad joke.  I know.  I’ve lived there.  But what I didn’t know years ago is every marriage comes with booby-traps and a self-destruct kit you don’t have to be taught how to use.

There’s a dormant seed in each significant relationship that will sprout when fertilized with enough evil – evil meaning anything that doesn’t look like our loving God.  Pain and injury are unavoidable, but damage control is possible if both parties are willing to participate in the healing process.  It’s the practice of inflicting pain over time that finally kills.

I don’t know what happened between Katharine and her husband.  They’ve only been married two years, but things can disintegrate really fast, especially if the glue is water soluble.  It’s easier to bolt than struggle through difficulties.  In similar situations, I’ve run, lied, cheated, abused, and been abused.  I did this enough times until I gave up on half the population, and vented my rage at God.  I thought I had given up on marriage.  What I didn’t know was I had given up on myself.  Over time, I faced the fact that my best plans and ideas had never worked, and I finally asked God for help.  I had become teachable, and learned that I am a precious woman of great value, capable of having a wonderful marriage if I allowed God to change my heart and teach me healthy ways to interact with men.  No new marriage was ever promised. But then I met Bud – a friend of God.

For almost twelve years now, Bud and I have shared the marriage I’ve always wanted: realistic, but filled with love and respect, and we do whatever it takes to keep it alive and well.  God is first in our lives, followed by our relationship.  Even our children aren’t second in that line-up.  I know this may sound weird, but I love my soul-bond with Bud more than I love him.  Unlike Katharine, I’d rather have him as I husband than as my best friend.

I have three best friends: Bud and two “girlfriends”.  We share confidences and enjoy each others’ individual company. Each one meets different heart’s desires in my life.  Of the three, Bud and I have a unique partnership because of co-habitation, sex, joint finances, and family, embraced by commitment to God and each.  That last part makes all the difference when I’m really pissed at Bud and want to tell him to get the f… out (for an hour or two).

Katharine would rather be “right” than be right with her husband.  Even when we each think “I’m right”, Bud and I have decided to seek a solution that’s mutually beneficial for both of us.  I would much rather run from this responsibility sometimes, or use words like a weapon.  But I haven’t so far, and pray I never will, because I know Bud and I are fully capable of destroying this beautiful marriage.  I’ve also learned that God can resurrect the dead to new life, but we have to be teachable and unselfish.  We have to be willing to cooperate with God and each other.  We have to be willing to heal.

Katharine, if you’re living in hell, I wouldn’t want your marriage either.  If you’re running because you’re not “in love” anymore, or life together has gotten tough, I wish I could convince you that your next marriage won’t be any different unless you change.  I learned the hard way that God alone heals broken hearts and relationships, and I pray the day will come where you fall flat on your face, if that’s what it takes, so that you can learn that, too.

Joy Wilson is the author of Uncensored Prayer: The Spiritual Practice of Wrestling With God (Civitas Press, 2011). She and her husband, Bud, are two life-long hippies.  They live in Bartlett, TN, with six cats, two dogs, and a timber wolf hybrid.  Joy is an Outlaw Preacher and an active participant in Kairos Prison Ministry.  You can usually find her at home writing or intently reading history and mystery books.  Contact Joy at joyleewilson@gmail.com and on Facebook (website is under contruction).