Category Archives: fallenness

The High Co$t of Pastoral Adultery

costsFor the past five years, I’ve been telling you the dangers of adultery and why churches, pastors, denominations and others should be concerned with preventing moral failure in their church leaders.

The main reason? We should never give way to sin  – that sin that grieves the heart of God. That sin that will tear apart our families, our churches, and can destroy our lives. I’ve been beating that drum for several years now. Just go back and check the archives here, here, here, here and here.

Understand that you do not want to grieve the heart of God. Adultery is not worth it. It carries with it consequences for a lifetime. I’ve counseled pastors who have lost everything and have been fighting their whole lives to get it back.


 “The financial impact of any sinful decision we make is a secondary consideration, but a consideration nonetheless.”


That being said, there’s another cost that I’ve never examined. There is a financial cost to pastoral adultery.

Now hold up for a second. If you read this post and your conclusion is, “Ray Carroll at Fallen Pastor said the reason we shouldn’t commit adultery is because it isn’t financially wise” – then you’re just not getting the message. Go read the rest of the blog first and I’ll be here when you get back.

I will say this – we need to be vested in preventing moral failure in our church leaders. And there are some people within our church leaders who don’t care too much about morality, pastor burnout or depression,  how expectations are unrealistic, or whatever. All they care about is the bottom line – the business meeting financial report.

Is pointing out the economic loss of pastoral adultery a bad thing? I don’t think so. I think it’s a secondary problem. I don’t think it’s the reason we should stand on the rooftops and tell leaders why they should abstain from sexual sin. However, it is a secondary reason why churches should be concerned about preventing this problem.

Our primary reason for concern is grieving the Spirit of God, the minister’s family, his integrity and holiness, the witness of our church and leaders, the holiness of our fellowship, and our sexual purity.

The financial impact of any sinful decision we make is a secondary consideration, but a consideration nonetheless. I haven’t looked at any numbers and I haven’t done any studies, but I’ve seen the financial impact of fallen leaders on churches and their families.

To name a few: The tearing apart of the financial stability of the family, the need for long-term legal counsel for both sides of a marriage that is not reconciled, the diminishing income of the family when a pastor loses his job and his inability to find another career, the church as it loses members in the short and long-term, the church as it goes through a hiring process, the short and long-term impact of the pastor’s adultery on the reputation of the church and ability to attract new members and more.

Here’s the bottom line: I hope you’ve read this blog before and wanted to get involved in preventing moral failure in our leaders before. But maybe today after reading this, it triggered something in you that made it more serious for you.

It is serious. Moral failure has had a terrible impact on everyone, from the top to the bottom of the church. If we are going to start making a difference, we need to start in our individual communities of faith with information and support of our leaders.

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

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

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

Guest Blog: What Will It Take To Forgive?

I’d like to welcome Mark and Lisa DeCourcey today for a guest blog. Mark writes today with the heart of a fallen pastor who understands forgiveness and the need for restoration and reconciliation. Please check out their information and their blog info below.

A little over a year ago, I committed adultery. God has done an amazing work of restoration in my family and in my marriage. My wife, Lisa, has been living out forgiveness like I have never seen before. I am blessed and amazed and grateful that ours is a forgiving God.

forgivemeWhile I celebrate the forgiveness of God and Lisa and my family, I realize that there are others who have not forgiven me. Some of these people don’t surprise me, while others do. In a desire to better understand forgiveness, I ponder the question, “Why haven’t you forgiven me?” I don’t wonder out of anger or entitlement. I want to learn. Because you see, at the top of the list people who have struggled to forgive me is me. I can just as easily ask the same question—“What will it take for me to forgive myself?”

As I ponder forgiveness, I realize that there are some barriers I face in forgiving myself that may apply to forgiving others:

I will forgive you when you have shown repentance.

“Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him.” Luke 17:3

Repentance is absolutely necessary for forgiveness. If he repents, forgive him. What I have learned of repentance over this last year is that it is a lifestyle change. It is a condition of the heart made possible by the power of the Holy Spirit in me. I must continually strive to live out repentance. It begins with the words, “I repent,” but it is proven out over time. At what point is my heart repentant enough? Is evidence of repentance sufficient or do I need proof of repentance?

 I will forgive you when _______ does.

I have hurt many with my sin. As I survey the damage, it becomes evident that I have hurt people at different levels and to different degrees. I am inclined to think, “If that person can forgive me, I can forgive me. If this person can’t forgive me, I could never forgive me.” I am overwhelmed by the gracious forgiveness my wife has extended to me. If she could not forgive me, I am not sure I could ever forgive myself. I am grateful that I don’t have to process through that. I must, however, consider that hard reality.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9

Jesus has forgiven me. How could I elevate anyone’s forgiveness, even my wife’s, to a higher status? If I think, “Jesus has deemed me worthy of forgiveness but Lisa hasn’t, therefore I am not worthy,” that puts a great deal of pressure on my wife and demotes Jesus from His position as Righteous Judge.

I will forgive you when the punishment has fit the crime.

I tend to be a justice seeker. There is a level of punishment I expect for my sin and until I have reached it, I will not forgive. It is as though I believe God requires a degree of pain from me before He will forgive. In the days immediately after the discovery of my affair, I laid on the floor and begged God to allow me to feel the full weight of my sin. He said to me (not audibly, but emphatically) “No. You don’t get to feel the full weight of your sin because my Son did. I will not minimize what He did for you on the cross just so you can feel like you are contributing to your forgiveness.”

“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” 1 Peter 2:24

The fitting punishment for sin in general, and adultery specifically, is death. In my case, the penalty for my sin was paid about 2,000 years before the crime. If I believe that Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for my sin and to make forgiveness available to me, then I cannot wait for some added level of punishment.

“He said, ‘It is finished…’” John 19:30

I will forgive you when I feel like it.

I have spent a year waiting to wake up in the morning and feel forgiven. At the same time, I have wanted to feel like forgiving myself. I am waiting for some warm, happy feeling to spur my actions. In the words of every pop-psychologist of our day, “I will follow my heart.” The truth is, I need to lead my heart.

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” Jeremiah 17:9

Forgiveness will not simply spring forth from my heart. I have heard Forgiveness: Who's Saying What?, Part 1it preached and I have preached it myself that love is not a feeling that washes over you; rather it is a choice, a commitment, an action. Forgiveness is born out of love and as such carries that same DNA. Forgiveness is a choice, a commitment to do the hard work that is coming. I don’t feel like forgiving myself and that is good. If I forgive because I feel like it, perhaps I have bought into the deceit of my heart. That forgiveness will be as lasting as that warm, fuzzy feeling of “love.”

I will forgive you out of obedience.

Jesus tells the parable of the unforgiving servant to put me in my place. In spite of my countless sin, my acts of direct rebellion against God Almighty, He has forgiven me. Who am I to think for a moment that I should hold my brother or myself to a higher standard than the Master.

“‘And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” Matthew 18:33-35

The Master simply says—no, demands—that as we have been forgiven, we forgive. Forgiving is an opportunity for pure obedience. When the Master says to forgive and I am inclined to forgive, that is agreement. When the Master says to forgive and I don’t want to forgive but I do, that is obedience. God’s command is “Forgive.” When I don’t feel like, when I don’t want to, when I’m not ready, when it doesn’t make sense—this is when I have the opportunity to honor the Master with obedience.

 I will forgive you in faith.

I believe my struggle to forgive myself boils down to this: do I believe my sins are forgiven? Do I believe that Jesus’ death on the cross is sufficient? Do I believe that the crucifixion is the culmination of God’s prefect to plan to atone for my sin and restore me to a right relationship with Him? It seems my inability to forgive is connected closely to my inability to be forgiven. This locks me tightly in a catch-22. My faith must be firmly anchored in the God who worked it out, all by Himself, with nothing added by me, before I was born.

“…but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

Are you struggling to forgive yourself? Are you struggling to forgive someone else? I have a long way to go, but here is what has become clear to me: if forgiveness depends more on me and less on God at work in me, I will never truly forgive nor will I truly be forgiven. Like so many of the deep truths of being a Christ-follower, if I need to fully understand it, I will not experience the full blessing of forgiveness.

For more on Mark and Lisa DeCourcey’s story and God’s amazing work of restoration, check out their blog at www.decourcey.net.

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

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

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

Is Repentance Possible From The Fallen Pastor?

repentsWhen a pastor falls from the ministry, due to adultery, embezzlement, alcoholism, or whatever, the immediate desired response is that he repent on the spot. Repentance, as we know it, is a turning away from his sin and moving back toward God. Is repentance possible for the fallen pastor?

If he has left his wife or committed adultery, he needs to cut off all contact with the woman he is with and try to reconcile with his wife and family.

To do this, he needs the help of his church, counselors, and spiritual people who are willing to walk with him in restoration for a long time. It will be a difficult process. It will be a long process. In the beginning, he may not want to come back, but if he shows repentance, along with the support of the church, he may come back.

Even if he does, he will always have the albatross of sin tied around his neck for the rest of his life. I do know of many pastors who restored with their wives who reentered into ministry under the care of gracious churches.

That’s the easy one. Then we have the pastors, who I have written about extensively in my book, “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World,” who for whatever reason, decided not to turn from their sin. In my book, I talk about the stages the pastor goes through in the early days of his fall. He is angry over a lot of things, he feels rejected, he knows he has sinned, yet he is looking to justify his sin.

Few reach out to him and often, the only friend he has is the woman he has chosen to be with. These aren’t excuses for anconflict unrepentant attitude, they are the reality in which he lives.

Which brings me to a most important point – his issues didn’t start overnight. He didn’t wake up one day and decide to commit adultery. His temptation was preceded by years of issues, conflict, marriage issues and ultimately, temptation. The confusion he now finds himself in are a result of his own sin and he has to face the consequences.

He may reach out to his wife at some point to discuss reconciliation to find it isn’t possible. He may not wait long enough for the anger to reside. He may just be stagnant in his sin and keep pushing on. He may just want to be with this new woman. Regardless, he has made his choice, leaving many people behind hurt and disillusioned.

Someday, though, the light goes on. It probably goes on after he’s remarried or after reconciliation with his wife has long passed. His heart begins to turn to God and He realizes he has sinned greatly, but there is little he can do about his sin.

He knows he can write letters of apology, call the church deacons, apologize to his former wife, family, but he cannot undo the past. He turns to God for forgiveness and God forgives. He always does.

King David committed adultery with Bathsheba, then to hide his sin, he had her husband murdered. There’s no reconciliation to be had there with anyone. But after his sin was discovered, he poured out his heart to God for forgiveness. But where’s the repentance? He can’t undo the adultery and murder. God wanted a repentant heart in David. And David was broken when he wrote Psalm 56 and I believe he turned his heart to God. He couldn’t un-murder Uriah, but he could repent for his actions.

There are many that believe that a fallen pastor who did not reconcile with his wife can never be truly repentant. They make a good point. Their point is that unless you go back to your wife and family, you are not repentant. You are still a sinner and out of the will of God.

I’ve posed this question to a lot of counselors and seminary professors and people with a much higher pay grade than me. Why? Not so I could justify myself. But because I want to be right with God. After my divorce, reconciliation was not to be had, I remarried and went on. I spent a  lot of time in anger and bitterness.

sinnomoreThen, I had my moment with God. My moment where I asked if I could be truly repentant. I was reminded of the woman caught in adultery. He told her to “Go and sin no more.” I was reminded of the tax collectors who came to Christ and the result of their life was to stop living in a way that was dishonoring to God. The thief on the cross was granted entrance into heaven based on his belief. Paul, on the road to Damascus, was transformed by Christ and his life took a turn completely God-ward.

None of these people could do anything about their past at that point. It was what it was. The tax collector refunded the people’s money. Some could go and apologize to those they had harmed. But Christ desired a heart change. He wanted them to “go and sin no more.” He wanted the sin they had committed that led them there to stop.

Quote me how divorce is adultery and remarriage is adultery. I understand. I understand the sins committed in those days were done out of my own selfishness, due to the circumstances around me, due to my own desire to sin. All my sin. But I also know I was forgiven.

And if I quote Hershael York once, I’ll quote him a thousand times. He said to me, “You have to make your repentance more notorious than your sin.” He wasn’t excusing what I had done, but recognizing that I had sinned. But now that I had, I had to live a life of holiness, a life pleasing to God.

Unfortunately, for the fallen pastor, for many, he will always be seen as the man with the Scarlet Letter emblazoned upon him. Not worthy of forgiveness or trust. Hated by many, scorned by his former pastor friends, and not worthy of any service to God. I know better. There is hope. God is never done with His servants who turn their hearts toward Him. God has forgotten your sin if you repent and turn away from former things. Even if others bring it up, God has cast it as far as the east is from the west.

If you’re a fallen pastor and are reading this, regardless of what stage you are in, there is hope for repentance. Deep down, you know what to do. Turn to God, seek Him and He will answer.

(This is a repost from a while back, but I thought it might help those who are new to the site – God bless).

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

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

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

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

Why Pastors Fall: The Holiday Funk?

Photo by Ilona Wellman, The Stranger
Photo by Ilona Wellman, The Stranger

It’s a time of year where I get an increase in traffic on my site. During the holidays, crises come. I think even seasonal depression can set in and have a tremendous impact on pastors and church members.

The holiday (Thanksgiving, Christmas) season brings change to a lot of people. For many, it’s a time of transition. During this season, tragedy can hit harder for a lot of people as well. It was during this time that my mother was killed in a car accident. That event, added to several other events, began to spiral my unchecked life as a pastor out of control.

During this time of year, people may tend to have seasonal depression. They might start reflecting on their own life and feel lonely, rejected, or useless. Pastors aren’t above those feelings.

I’ve talked to a lot of pastors since my own fall from ministry who were thinking of leaving their wives for another woman. For that matter, I’ve talked to non-pastors as well.

Typically, they sense something has changed in the relationship with their wife. That is the biggest factor. The problems may have begun years ago, but there comes a day where they just sense they want something else. For some men (or women) they find a relationship with someone that is completely different than they had with their spouse.

The new relationship is change. It starts out with conversation, texts, lunch dates and can easily accelerate. The new person offers them what their spouse didn’t give them. Change. Newness.

Now, this may sound ridiculous, but I’m throwing it out there. In my book, “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World,” I talk about factors that lead a pastor who never would have considered an affair before to the point of failure. I talk about isolation, church conflict, tragedy, and becoming idolized.

Those things do have a tremendous influence in the breaking down drainedof the American pastor. Thom Rainer had a great article about depression and anxiety showing the stress pastors are under.

But there does come a day when the pastor makes his choice. And his choice is all his. Make no mistake, the reason he ultimately cheats is typically a bad relationship with his wife. I don’t write that to put it on his wife. Ministry can have a horrific impact on spouses and they need to work together to stay strong.

The danger is when the pastor begins to blame everything else for his ultimate failure. When he makes that choice, the season may have just changed and Spring or Winter may have just settled. In his mind, he may feel renewed and ready to start a new relationship. Does that sound strange? It shouldn’t. All of us who engage in sin look for justification for our sin.

We may blame our church for treating us so poorly. Yeah, things may have been bad at church, but church doesn’t drive us to commit adultery. We may have walked through grief, and that grief may have been horrific, but grief is not the direct cause of our fall.

Those are all factors that may push us in the direction in which we feel justified to sin. But in the end, we are typically unsatisfied with our spouse and pursuing our own desires.

There are two important things to remember. First, the pastor is human and vulnerable just like the rest of us to faulty thinking, sin, and bad relationships. Second, anyone who falls is worthy of restoration back to Christ. We are to pursue those who fall in love, in person, and encourage their repentance.

If they don’t repent? We don’t cast them into the trash heap of society. We still leave the door open. We still love them. Major sin has a huge effect on people and it may take years before they turn to God and pursue holiness again. Will they look exactly like they did before? No. But we are to forgive as Christ did.

We are in the middle of the Christmas season. It’s a time of reflection for a lot of Christians. Maybe good, maybe bad. If you’re vulnerable, find out where. You may be vulnerable and not realize it. Find a friend to talk to. Pour out your frustrations and heart and get an objective view.

Let all your change be positive and pleasing to the Lord.

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Interesting article I found in researching for this blog post: http://www.divorcemed.com/Articles/ArticlesByDiane/Affairs.htm

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

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

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

How Capshaw Church Forgave a Fallen Pastor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FP: Does reconciliation mean restoration to you?

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

FP: What surprised you about the reconciliation?

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

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


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


FP: What did you learn about your church?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is Your Church Equipped to Handle Ministry Failure?

It is my strong belief that most churches and leaders are not ready to handle the failure of a church leader. But even before that happens, I believe that it can and should be prevented.

This video is an invitation to church leaders, associational missionaries, church members, pastors and anyone who wants to prevent ministry failure in their churches. It is also a call to fallen pastors to heal and be restored back to Christ.

There seems to be a grassroots movement of people who are becoming concerned about this issue. I hope that’s the case. If you’d like to help, please share this short video and/or this website with people and their churches so that we might see ministry failure due to sexual sin stopped before it gets started.

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

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

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

Too Many Fallen Pastors: A Call For Reformation

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

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

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

Pastors

Church Leaders

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

Church Members

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

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

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

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

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

____________________________

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

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

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

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

I wanted to be able to write something to help churches and leaders have a guide for when their pastor falls. The crisisproblem is that no two situations are quite alike. And yet, all situations are very similar. For the next few posts, I want to give some help that comes from my experience and from the things I’ve read in the past four years.

When a pastor falls, it’s not an easy experience for anyone. The advice I’m giving is general advice for when a church learns that their pastor has fallen morally. He might have committed adultery with another person, he might have been engaged in what he calls an “emotional affair“, or he might have been engaged in a long time addiction to pornography. This post is designed to help the leaders in the church when the find out their pastor has fallen.

I want to start off with a few basic reminders before I start throwing out advice.

1. Remember that each and every decision needs to be bathed in prayer. People will be quick to act, easy to anger, and will be very hurt. Prayer has a way of focusing us in the right way.

2. Remember that decisions based on God’s Word, no matter how difficult they might be, will always be the right ones. A pastor who has committed adultery has forfeited his right to shepherd the flock for a time (that topic to be covered later).

3. But always remember that decisions based on God’s Word are always to be made with grace, love, and humility. If the pastor is removed, it should always be done with the grace of Galatians 6:1.

4. Never forget that there are many people involved in this matter. One man’s sin may be at the forefront, but there are many others who need care and need to see the church act with truth, love, and grace.

5. Keep it confidential until a decision is made. If your church leadership is gathering facts and talking to the pastor, gossip should not be part of anyone’s life. When the facts come in, your pastor may be cleared. If one of the church leaders goes home and tells his spouse all the details of an important meeting and word gets out and severely twisted, the damage may be too great.

6. Finally, never be afraid to ask for outside help. If your church leadership team isn’t sure about what to do, or you feel like you can’t seem to agree, find a mediator. Ask an expert for help. There are a lot of people I know and there are people provided by your denomination or association who can offer wisdom. Never feel like you’re alone or that you’re the first ones to go through this.

truefalseSo let’s get to some first steps in this matter. I don’t want to assume anything – like I said, people tend to find out differently and people tend to react differently.

Get The Facts Straight

Finding out that the pastor has committed some sort of adultery is not easy. The information can come in many different ways:

  • A rumor that has spread in the community
  • A church member might approach the church leadership with a printed out series of emails or Facebook messages that prove the pastor’s infidelity
  • An anonymous letter is sent to the pastor and church leadership from a woman claiming to be his mistress
  • The pastor’s wife might approach a deacon regarding her suspicions about the minister and a church member or staff member
  • A staff member might tell church leadership of an ongoing affair
  • At the end of a service, a church member/staff member might confess that the pastor has been cheating with them
  • The rumor might begin on a social media site (Facebook, Twitter) and get picked up by local media

There are many ways that church leadership can get informed of an issue the minister might be having. I’ve heard of or witnessed all of the scenarios listed above. The easiest thing to do is panic. The knee-jerk reaction is to fire the pastor.

The best thing to do is for the church leadership is to respond in a calm and biblical manner. Most church by-laws require some sort of due process for the minister. It is important to have a meeting with him. Before that meeting takes place, it is a good idea to do fact gathering from people who are knowledgeable about the situation.

The church leadership should take seriously any first-hand evidence that is presented to them. Always be wise with any evidence, discernmentunderstanding the people presenting it. Such a time requires discernment. If a person asks for a meeting with the church leadership and confesses to an affair with the pastor, should their claim be taken seriously? Absolutely. They have a right to be heard. Their claim should not be rejected outright. If they have evidence of communication, it is even more helpful. A problem can arise when someone rejects their claim because this person, “Isn’t the pastor. They aren’t trustworthy.”

Every person who has a justifiable claim has a right to be heard. Again, the claim may later be rejected as false or partially false, but all evidence needs to be weighed before rejecting any outright.

Gossip, innuendo, and rumor is not typically helpful. Anonymous letters are not the greatest. However, I have known many women who have written such letters and were truthful in what they wrote. Of course, the fact that they did not sign them led many to reject the claim. The church leadership should be careful in approaching such communication.

The pastor’s side of the story should be heard as well. He needs to understand the facts that have been gathered or given to the church leadership. One of the worst things that can happen in a meeting is for things to get personal. Sticking to the facts is very important.  I’ll talk more about meeting with the pastor later. But understand that it is important to always gather as much information as possible.

Don’t Read Into The Situation

If you do hear gossip, receive a letter, or have someone approach your leadership about your pastor’s fidelity, treat it as a serious matter.

One of the worst things we can do when an accusation is made (and no fault has been found in the pastor yet) is to think, “You know he has been acting weird lately,” or “He has always hugged the women in the church too long,” or “I never did feel comfortable around him.” You may feel those statements are true, but those statements may have nothing to do with the matter on the table now.

As church leaders, examine the facts as you have them, pray over them and prepare your heart for what decisions may lie ahead. Next time, we will examine meeting with the pastor, his reaction, and his spouse.

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

____________________________

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

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

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

Does Your Doctor Ever Get Sick?

I was talking to a friend of mine yesterday who is in the pastor restoration business. We were discussing how fallen pastors are thrown to the wayside without being given a chance for restoration by their churches.

temptedYeah, they sinned. They committed adultery. It’s on them. They did it. They should pay the consequences.

But hold on for a second.

We were talking about some of the points I made in my book. In it, I talk about the circumstances that lead up to pastoral failure. In my book, I don’t make excuses for pastors. I interviewed 20 pastors – 11 of them made it into my book. I listed four major factors that led to pastoral failure. Is that an excuse? Nope. Each pastor made the choice to cross the line into adultery. I did.

But there were things that weakened these men, these ministers - and the statistics prove it; there are horrible things in our church culture that are not normative – counter to what the New Testament church should have for our pastors.

So let me turn to the blog post question – does your doctor ever get sick? Mine does. I love my family doctor. He’s always there for me. I can text him, I see him just about every week. As a sports medicine professional, I can count on him being there for the athletes I care for. He’s a champ. He works at least 60 hours a week, has another business on the side, a family to take care of, and of all the friends I have, I can always count on him. For the people I know who read this blog, they know who I’m talking about. And they know he’s a stand up guy.

But guess what? He gets sick. But we don’t ever imagine that our primary care doctor ever gets sick, do we? But he does. Sometimes, he gets sick and he shows up to work. But sometimes, he gets sick and he has to cancel patients so that he won’t spread his illness to others. That’s just the way it is.

I tell you this to let you know that sometimes your pastor gets sick. He sins. Sometimes he is tempted with vice. Sometimes while he is at Wal-Mart, he might look at an attractive woman a little too long. While he’s at home watching Monday Night Football, he might be lusting after the cheerleaders for the Carolina Panthers. There might be moments while he’s at church when a church member catches his eye because his passions aren’t under control. For heavens sake, at night he might be tempted to look at online pornography. Statistics bear it out. Anywhere from 50-80% of pastors have looked at pornography in the last month. It just depends on what study you want to believe.

You think you doctor is sick? Your pastor is sick as well. He is completely and totally human. For some reason, we want to place him on some sort of pedestal and think he is above us. He is not. He is vulnerable.

Sometimes, even he likes to think he is above reproach as well. But he is not. He needs to surround himself with accountability and mentors to keep himself close to Christ.

You may think, “But, but, he’s our pastor! He baptized my little daughter or son!” Listen. He’s as human as you are. Let go of your expectations of your pastor. Just like you need to realize that Christ was genuinely tempted in every way: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Hebrews 4:15

Look at that verse for a moment, church people. Jesus was tempted as we are. How are we tempted? Yep. It’s tough, but think about it. He Romantic Momentsdid overcome temptation. But your pastor is tempted just the same. And it is difficult for him. Especially in this age of digital media, internet, and socialization.

What I’m telling you is that your pastor is a human. He is a man who needs constant support and prayer. He needs an accountability group around him loving him and supporting him. There need to be people in the congregation caring for women who need support after a divorce or after a break-up. Everyone in the church needs love. Be aware of the needs in your church. If you neglect one need in your church, it could harm another person in your church.

Please be aware of all of the people in your church. Be loving. Be aware. Be ready to minister to all people. The adversary is ready at the door to destroy us. Be a vigilant church.

Just as your doctor can get sick at any moment, your pastor can fall prey to any spiritual disease at any moment. Please be ready, children of God.

Other helpful articles:

Pastors are People Too” from InTouch Ministries

10 Things About Pastors Every Church Member Need To Know” by Joe McKeever

Pastors are People Too!” by Michael Lukaszewski

An Open Letter to Pastors: Please be Fully Human” by Emily T. Wierenga

____________________________

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 Church Equipped to Handle Ministry Failure?

It is my strong belief that most churches and leaders are not ready to handle the failure of a church leader. But even before that happens, I believe that it can and should be prevented.

This video is an invitation to church leaders, associational missionaries, church members, pastors and anyone who wants to prevent ministry failure in their churches. It is also a call to fallen pastors to heal and be restored back to Christ.

There seems to be a grassroots movement of people who are becoming concerned about this issue. I hope that’s the case. If you’d like to help, please share this short video and/or this website with people and their churches so that we might see ministry failure due to sexual sin stopped before it gets started.

__________________

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.