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My Pastor Sinned, What Should I Do?

What should a church member do when a pastor’s sin is uncovered? The pastor’s sin could be anything ranging from adultery to embezzling. I’ve put together a few quick questions someone should ask in reference to a pastor’s sin and their own struggle with the issues. 1. How will...

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When a Pastor Falls, 1: Help For Leaders

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, affair, church, church leadership, church members, churches, conflict, fallenness, gossip, leadership, ministry, pastoring, pastors, preachers, reconciliation | Posted on 08-04-2014

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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.

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.

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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.

Help For Bob Coy and Calvary Chapel

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in church members, churches, current events, fallenness, pastoring, pastors | Posted on 07-04-2014

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I just heard about Pastor Bob Coy of Calvary Chapel in Florida. I don’t know him personally, but he has announced his resignation as pastor due to moral failure. I fell four years ago and have run this ministry and writing here ever since. I’ve been able to help a lot of people during that time.

I want to encourage Pastor Coy and let him know I’m here and willing to help. I’m here for the church leadership if they want to talk. And I’m here for the church members and anyone involved. I’m here because I care and I know how much it hurts. Anything you say or send to me is confidential. If you don’t want to talk to me, I have a network of people who can help.

Pastor Coy and people of Calvary Chapel, I care. I’m praying for you. I’m here for all of you.

I wanted to repost the blog below because I thought it might help those involved. The original title is,When the Pastor Gets Caught.”

The day comes out of nowhere and the news hits everyone hard. Everyone learns that the pastor has committed adultery. Or, for that matter, they’ve discovered he’s embezzled or been lying about something horrible.

Everyone has a different reaction. I was a pastor and I fell when I committed adultery. I had kept it secret for a few months, but sadyou can’t sin under wraps forever.

What I knew then about the reactions of people is different from what I know now. I’ve spent the last four years ministering to fallen pastors, the church members and leaders who were hurt, their wives, and even the women they had the affair with.

In this post, I want to share with you the reactions that I’ve heard from people when their pastor falls. Why? Because I’ve learned something very important over the years – one of the most important things anyone can do is listen to what people are saying. When a pastor falls, the most important thing a church can do is listen. If we don’t listen, we can’t communicate. If we aren’t listening to the real hurt and concern of the people around us, we will never get to a place where we understand one another.

Everyone has the right to react and feel hurt. Everyone has the right to feel disappointment in the person they listened to, trusted and loved.

I remember when I was writing my book, I was still having anger toward people who were lashing out at me about what I did. One of the most helpful conversations I had was with Dr. Hershael York who basically told me, “Ray, you don’t get the right to get angry with those people when they lash out in anger. You’re the one who committed adultery. You put them in that position. Even if their anger is unbiblical, which they’ll have to answer for, you need to keep silent. That’s part of being humble.

He was right. Now I’d like to share with you some of the things I’ve heard from people over the past few years. I’m writing them so that we can see the larger picture. Once everything comes out, where do we go? Remember that a lot of things said in the first few days of discovery are said in anger or disappointment:

baptismChurch member #1: “I can’t believe it. He baptized my kids. I trusted him. How could he do this? I guess it goes to show you that you can’t trust anyone?

Church member #2: “I never trusted him anyway. That’s horrible. His wife should leave him right away. He has got to be fired right now. He’s probably been doing this for years.

Church leader #1: “You know, we could just sweep this under the rug. Surely we can do damage control on this. If this gets out, it could hurt the church.

Church leader #2: “He’s done. This is an embarrassment. He needs to type a letter of resignation now and we have got to move on as quickly as possible.

Church leader #3: “He’s in trouble and I don’t like what he did. He can’t stay on here as pastor, but we do have a responsibility to help him and his family. Let’s go talk to him. I’m not sure what we can do, but let’s see if we can get him and his wife some help.

Community pastor#1: “Wow. I never thought he would do that. Goes to show you it can happen to anyone.

Community pastor #2: “What a disappointment. He just makes us all look bad.

Community pastor #3: “I need to call him. I don’t know what I can do, but I can at least reach out.

The pastor himself, reaction #1: “I cannot believe this is happening. I don’t know how I got here. I mean, I know how I got here. But, I don’t know what to do now. I’m about to lose everything. It’s all my fault. I need help.

The pastor, reaction #2: “I’m done. I’m getting all these angry calls. I’m leaving anyway. I don’t want to have anything to do Pastor Holding Biblewith church or any of this. My marriage has been awful and I’m leaving. No one can stop me.

The pastor, reaction #3: “I got caught. I know I did something wrong. Maybe I can get a little counseling and get back to ministry soon.”

There are many different reactions. Not everyone is on the same page and every member, leader and pastor has a different set of dynamics. The pastor has sinned and is responsible to face the consequences.

Here at Fallen Pastor, I do two things. First, I listen to people who approach me with questions. If they want advice, I give it. When a fallen pastor contacts me, I help. I’ve heard from all three of those types of pastors I listed above. I listen to them. And I love on them. I let them know that life isn’t over. I want them to be reconciled to Christ. I tell them that I will stand with them and help them get back on their feet.

Sometimes, they don’t listen to what I have to say. Sometimes they just want the answer to one or two questions and I never hear from them again. And that’s okay too.

But what I also do is help churches be aware that the fallen pastor needs help. His family needs help. I know that’s a tall order. I do. He just got caught sinning. He messed up royally. He has brought a dark cloud to rest on the church. People in the community will be gossiping for months about this.

ponderousThen we come to Galatians 6:1 where we are told to restore people. Not to the pulpit – but to Christ. We are to restore people when they fall. Know what we are to do when someone sins? Help them out of the pit they’ve dug for themselves.

In the beginning, it sure is hard. We are hurt, angry and want to put that person as far away from us as possible.

And the guys who get tossed to the side after they sin – I’ve talked to them too. Years after they fell, they are in a really bad place. Some might say, “Good, they deserve it.” Know what? We all deserve it. And I will never argue that a fallen pastor shouldn’t face up to the consequences he sowed. He will for the rest of his life.

What I am calling for is the Christian community to do what they can to restore people who sin. Restore them to Christ. And if you need help, reach out. We’re here. If you can’t do it yourself, find someone who can.

I would also direct your attention to this well written post at The Last Hiker, “Pastor Bob Coy, The Church, Adultery, Consequences, and Grace

Want to leave a comment on today’s post? 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.

The Plague of Fallen Pastors: An Answer

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in book, church leadership, church members, churches, fallenness, help, pastors | Posted on 02-04-2014

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Fallen_Pastor_Cover_1200wI love the ministry I’m able to do on this blog and what it’s become. Four years ago when I started, there was nothing like it. I began writing because there wasn’t anyone out there, like me – a fallen pastor – who was reaching out and writing about what it was like.

It’s become more than I ever imagined. I get emails daily from fallen pastors, pastor’s wives who just found out their husbands have been unfaithful, women who have been having affairs with pastors, churches who have just found out their pastors have fallen, children of fallen pastors, and many others. I’ve heard stories that a lot of people would find unbelievable, but I just understand is part of the sinful reality of the church culture we have created.

So when I was approached by Civitas Press to write a book, I jumped at the chance. I get asked a lot of questions via my contact page. And a lot of them are the same. And many of them are answered in the book. But I don’t mind replying to people. In fact, I reply to them all, because that’s what I do.

But I honestly believe that if we are going to prevent pastoral moral failure, we need to understand why it’s happening. We also need to be able to deal with it when it happens. And we also need to know how to minister to the thousands of fallen ministers in our midst.

In the book, you’ll find statistics about the serious trouble our churches and pastors are facing. It’s worse than you think. Just one statistic – one in three pastors (still in the pulpit) has had an encounter with the opposite sex where they “crossed the line.” Yeah, there’s more.

After that, I tell my story and the story of eleven other men who fell from ministry. In doing so, I identify four distinct patterns that cause ministry failure. In the second half of the book, I address sin, the church culture, and how to address the issue.

So, who can find help from “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World”?

1. Fallen Pastors, of course.

Statistics tell us that each month, 1,500 pastors leave the ministry due to conflict, burnout or moral failure. Where are they going Online Info About Fallen Pastorsto? Where do they run to? More importantly, these guys didn’t just wake up one day and say, “Hey, I think I’ll commit adultery!”

Truth be known, the life after a fall is very lonely. I’m not asking for sympathy for the fallen pastor, but it is something that needs to be understood. He is suddenly a lonely, rejected figure who now will carry around the Scarlet “A” on his chest for the rest of his life. Depression, anxiety and suicide may cross his mind. He may never find a church to even visit again.

Better yet, if you know a fallen pastor and have a decent relationship with them, buy them the book. Share this site with them and tell them I’m here to talk. That’s part of the package deal with the book. The main reason I wanted to write was because there’s noting out there like this book. Unless you’ve been there, it s difficult to understand. When I talk to newly fallen ministers, they often say, “You’re the only one who understands.” God does too, obviously, but you know what they mean. I’m not here to judge, but I won’t condone sin either.

There are a lot of fallen ministers in our midst. There are actually several ministries designed to help them, but they are overloaded and there aren’t enough of them. Worse, many fallen pastors never reach out for the help they need. Why? Well, one reason is the way in which they are cast out. Too often, once a pastor’s sin is discovered, he’s thrown out with the garbage. That leads us to #2 . . .

2. The Church and Her Leaders

After many discussions with my editor, his main concern was that pastors were falling in the first place. “Why are they falling?” he asked me. “There have to be reasons besides their own sin.”

It was a hard thing to tackle. It’s hard to write a book about circumstances around the falls of pastors without sounding like you’re trying to make excuses for your own adultery. But I did the best I could.

So I set out to interview a lot of fallen pastors, counselors, seminary people, and whoever would talk to me. I wanted to know, “Has something been going on in our churches where our knee-jerk reaction is to simply kick out the pastor when we find out he has committed adultery?” And that is the norm. Against everything we find in Galatians 6:1, we just run the minister out of town.

But again, that’s a hard thing to write to people who are angry, hurt and upset over a minister who has stood in the pulpit and preached truth to them for so long. The one thing people have told me – even those who have never experience the failure of a church leader – is that the book taught them a lot about forgiveness.

3. For people whose pastor fell

hurtspIt hurts. It really hurts when your pastor falls. There are all kinds of feelings that a church goes through. But through reading, I hope a church can do more than just identify with a fallen pastor. I hope they can take the first steps toward forgiveness. The first steps toward reconciliation.

It won’t be easy. It won’t be a short process. It will however, be worth it if it is done right.

4. For pastors who haven’t fallen

Hey, guess what? All of us frail, sinful people are moments away from sliding down that slippery slope. Pastors? None of us are exempt. I used to think I was. I used to be the guy who thought, “That could never happen to me.” Then after conflict, tragedy after tragedy, there I was, faced with it all. And I fell. And I fell hard.

Some people have read my book and didn’t like it. Some have read it and liked it a lot. Some in both groups used a similar word: “Sickening.” When they read of the sins that had been committed by fallen pastors, they were nauseated. That’s how we should feel when we sin against a holy God.

I didn’t go into graphic detail in the book about the affairs, but I let people know that there is sin against God involved.

So who is this book for? Really everyone. It’s even for people who don’t feel holy enough to get into heaven. You’re not. Just read the book and find out that all of us are a bunch of sinners in need of grace. Join the club and know how great and deep the love and grace of Christ is.

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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.

“I Can’t Hear You Through All This Sin!”

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in fallenness, sin | Posted on 31-03-2014

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Portrait of a eigth year old boy clenching his fists and screamiI took my step-daughter Leslie out today to a local playground for a little while. I thought I’d do some light reading but it was interrupted by a ten-year old boy with a cell phone in his hands screaming:

MOM! ANSWER YOUR STUPID PHONE! I SAID HEY MOM! PICK UP YOUR PHONE! ARE YOU LISTENING? CAN YOU HEAR ME! MOM! PICK UP YOUR PHONE!

His mom was sitting about 50 yards away in a pavilion talking to a friend. She either couldn’t hear him or was ignoring him. Of course, the irony was here was this boy within walking distance of his mother and instead of making the trip over to talk to her, he would rather use his phone.

Ah, I love it.

It made me think about fallen pastors and sin. I get contacted by people who are aware that their pastor (who may also happen to be their spouse or father or close friend) is committing adultery and they are the only one who is aware of it. No one in the church knows and the church leadership isn’t aware.

People in this situation contact me for advice asking, “They have to know they’re wrong. I’ve approached them about it, but they are still committing adultery. They need to repent. I love this person dearly but I don’t want to be the one to turn them in. How can they not see what they are doing is wrong?

Indeed. The real questions is, “How can any of us, engaged in a sin for a longignoring period of time, refuse to listen to God or His Word or someone warning us?” We are all guilty at some point of following our own sinful desires, justifying our own lusts and sin, and finding a way to ignore the voice of conscience.

We do it because we love our sin. I did it. I pastored for a few months while I sinned like that. No one else knew, but my heart sure did. And I justified my actions to myself.

It was like my heart was that screaming kid in the park today, just feet away from the rest of my spiritual and emotional senses, “HEY! DON’T YOU KNOW WHAT YOU’RE DOING IS SINFUL? IT’S ME! YOUR CONSCIENCE GUIDED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT! I KNOW YOU CAN HEAR ME! DON’T ACT LIKE YOU CAN’T!

But we find a way to switch it off or muffle that voice enough for a while until one of two things happens. Either we get caught or we are convicted of our sin. There is another option, but it is awful. It is the continual unrepentant action of our heart that never, ever turns back to God that gives proof of who we always were.

That’s why you can feel like you’re standing right in the ear of a friend, fallen pastor, sinning friend and screaming, “HEY FRIEND! I’M TELLING THIS BECAUSE I LOVE YOU, BUT YOU ARE IN TROUBLE IF YOU KEEP THIS UP!

Pray for such a one. But pray for yourself as well, because there are times that we turn up the volume of the sin in our lives so much that we refuse to listen to the helpful voices around us begging for us to return home.

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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.

We Are Here – We Are Not Invisible

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in brokenness, fallenness, restoration, U2 | Posted on 28-03-2014

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Being a fallen person is a difficult thing. If you’re a pastor who committed waterfalladultery, if you were the other woman, if you’re the wife of a fallen pastor – you made a decision to sin and are living through the consequences of that.

Hopefully, you’ve taken the steps toward restoration back to Christ. I don’t necessarily mean restoration back to ministry. I mean humbling yourself and becoming broken. Taking the first steps back toward a right relationship with Christ.

No one believes you at first. Especially if your marriage has ended. Especially when your ministry fell apart. When all those sermons you preached ended up in a hypocritical heap at your feet.

They’re thinking, “You committed adultery, cheated on your wife and now you’re turning back to Christ? Yeah right. It was all a lie before. You’ll always be a cheater.

There are many fallen pastors out there who know what I’m talking about.

I still have pastors who I talked to regularly who look at me in disgust. I see their wives in public and I will say “hello” to them and they just give me that look of “why would I talk to you?

I’ll see people I used to fellowship with and hear them making a joke about me under their breath or they’ll say to someone else, “There goes that pastor we had that committed adultery.

gosssipThat’s all really okay. It is. Dr. Hershael York has become a friend of mine and has let me know that if I want to show true humility, I’ve got to face the consequences of what I did.

When I interviewed him for my book, he told me something that has stayed with me. At the time, I was so irritated with people who were still angry with me for committing adultery. I was thinking, “Why are they acting this way? Why aren’t they more forgiving?” He told me that they wouldn’t be in that position if I hadn’t sinned in the first place. Even if their reaction was sinful, it was a consequence of my sin and I needed to show grace. That’s when he said this:

If a fallen pastor is going to make it in this world, ‘his repentance has to be more notorious than his sin.’”

I interviewed him a while back and we revisited the topic. He added this idea to people forgiving fallen pastors:

“We’re totally comfortable when a dope smoking, meth lab owning guy gets saved and we rejoice in that; but what if a Christian falls into that and returns? Our discomfort sort of negates the book of Galatians. In Galatians, Paul says, ‘What don’t you understand? Now if you began in the Spirit you are not perfected by works!’”

My attention has been turned to the new U2 song – Invisible. It’s not about fallen pastors. But there are a few lines that ring in my ears that remind me of a sinner’s restoration back to Christ. It reminds me of how a Christian can fall so far and be looked down on by other Christians and be “unseen.”

I finally found my real name
I won’t be me when you see me again
No, I won’t be my father’s son

I’m more than you know
I’m more than you see here
More than you let me be
I’m more than you know
A body in a soul
You don’t see me but you will
I am not invisible

When I talk to fallen pastors the first time, they’re often panicked and frantic. They’re about to lose it all – their job, possibly their family. But I can promise them this – that if they are honest, humble, and faithful – God will carry them through. It won’t be easy. People will often shame them, be angry with them, throw them out – but God will help them, love them, forgive them, and get them through it.

Fallen pastors – we are not invisible. Many in the Christian community may choose to ignore us, but we are here and we are real.

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

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

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

Pastors In Trouble 5: Unrepentant Questions

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, affair, brokenness, church, church leadership, fallenness, humillity, ministry, pastors, repentance, restoration | Posted on 12-03-2014

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I love helping (and am always more than happy to help) anyone who contacts me through this fallingministry, but I am closest to the messed up, confused world of the freshly fallen pastor. And it is a horrible place to be. I tell fallen pastors, “No one really understands fallen ministers like a fellow fallen minister.”

One of the most confusing things for people on the outside looking in is the messed up morality of a fallen pastor. Here’s the deal – when a guy has committed adultery for a while and hasn’t been caught, he’s not thinking clearly or biblically. And when he gets caught, he’s going to try to justify and excuse his behavior any way he can. Often, he will use Scripture to justify his sin. I tried it. It even sounded good to me at the time. But it was wrong.

To everyone else, it sounds rotten. It is rotten. That’s why I always tell people to be kind and patient with a fallen pastor. Don’t let him twist the truth, but do show him compassion. Understand that he is going to come around eventually. He is living the life of the prodigal son – one day he’s going to wake up and smell the pig droppings. And when he does, he’s going to need people who care about him.

I want to answer a couple of the most frequently messed up questions I get from fallen pastors today (I introduced this issue in my last post). The answers will seem pretty obvious. But that’s just it – when you’re waist deep in the crud of sin, the answers aren’t obvious because we aren’t looking for truth.

You know what’s even more troubling? I get these same questions from church leaders who want to ignore the sin of their pastor because they don’t want the church’s reputation to suffer damage. They would rather hide the pastor’s affair (even though his wife knows), tell the woman he had an affair with to move on (because she’s usually a church member or member of the staff) and sweep it under the rug so that the church isn’t traumatized. I’m just gonna tell you that a decision like that always comes back to haunt a church and those involved.

quesr2So here are the most common messed up questions I get – questions I even considered when I wasn’t thinking clearly when I was mired in my sin.

1. “God has forgiven me, so why do I need to tell the church/my wife what I’ve done?”

God is a God of forgiveness. That is clear. He does cast our sin as far as the east is from the west. I am thankful for the amazing grace that God has shown to us by His Son Jesus Christ.

I blogged a little about this question before but want to give the response clearly again. If you are a church leader and you have committed adultery, you should ask God for forgiveness. But you also have a duty to tell your church and leaders.

When you were hired, voted in, appointed by a council – you were given the position of head elder/pastor and expected to fulfill the duties of 1 Timothy 3:1-13. Those people put their trust in you. They expected you to be faithful to your calling and be a person above reproach. When we commit a major sin, we violate their trust. When we violate their trust, we need to let them know and we have come under church discipline.

The same goes for our spouse. We took a vow. And even if we commit “emotional adultery,” there is something wrong in our marriage that needs to be fixed right away. If it doesn’t get fixed, we are going to do it again. Our spouse deserves to know that we violated our vow and that we have become vulnerable to sin.

2. “I committed adultery/had an emotional affair with a woman in the church. sorrycoupIt’s okay if she stays at the same church as I do, right?”

When guys ask me this question, I know a couple of things. First, they are in trouble spiritually and morally. They are not thinking clearly. Why? Because they think they are/or may actually be in love with the woman they are having an affair with. They cannot stand being apart from her. They don’t want to be away from her.

Second, if at this point a pastor has “only” admitted to an “emotional affair” and he asks this question – I can almost bank on the fact that he has crossed the line into the physical but he’s just not being forthcoming about it.

The big problem is this – if a man has been caught and he’s saying all the “right” things like, “I know I’ve sinned and I want to make things right with my wife.” But his actions are saying, “I still want to be around this woman and I’m still texting her and talking to her,” then what he’s saying and what he’s doing are two different things. He’s not repentant. He’s still trapped.

Listen carefully though. I have a tremendous amount of concern for the woman the pastor has been involved with. I think churches should have the same amount of concern, especially if she is a member or a part of the staff.

Back to the issue at hand. Pastor, if you have committed adultery and you want your marriage to work out, you’ve got to distance yourself permanently from the person you were with. End of story. On top of that, you have to be transparent for a long time with your wife about your cell phone, email, Facebook and anything else you have passwords on. Give her access to everything. It’s freedom. It one step back towards trust.

repenta3. “I’ll be okay pretty quick, right? I won’t be out the ministry very long.”

When you get caught, what you need is to be restored to Christ. Something went wrong. Lots of somethings. I write about it on this blog and in my book. Those things need to be fixed before any kind of ministry can ever happen again. A life of brokenness and humility need to occur while God restores you.

This doesn’t happen overnight. It doesn’t happen in a few weeks. If you’re lucky, it might happen in a year. It happens in God’s timing.

But when you’re honest about your sin and how you came to it, God will be longsuffering and will heal your heart. It’s not easy being honest, but it is rewarding. It’s tough, but it is the narrow road for those who want peace.

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

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

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

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

Pastors In Trouble 4: If You Have To Ask…

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, fallenness, humillity, pastoring, pastors, repentance, restoration | Posted on 10-03-2014

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This blog is entitled “fallen pastor” but a lot of what I write could apply to anyone. All of us are susceptible to a ashamedfall. All of us are sinners and are capable of some pretty awful things. Honestly, you know what you’ve done. Maybe at this moment you are aware of a sin that you are attempting to hide from everyone. Maybe it’s not adultery – but it’s something that has a hold on you.

I know. You can stop whenever you want. And it really doesn’t control you.

Maybe you’re not in that situation now, but if you’re human, you have been. All of us have. The flesh gets hold of all of us at some point and we are addicts to something. We indulge in a sin and try to keep it secret – no matter how small.

The entire time we are sinning, we try to fool ourselves though. We think we are masters of that sin, but we are not. It has mastered us.

My father did his best to instill some wisdom in me. Two great thoughts that he repeated to me stick with me. The first was, “Believe none of what you hear and half of what you see.” The second, and germane to this post was, “If you have to ask about the morality of something and whether you should do it, you probably shouldn’t.

He was dead right about that last one.

I’ve been writing this series about the problems in the church culture – how our pastors are in crisis. We are in a time of turmoil unlike we’ve never seen before.

I can’t tell you how many fallen pastors email me with questions about moral issues and church issues. They’re guys who have just been caught and they have serious questions like, “Do I really need to tell my wife about my affair?” or “I’ve told my wife, do I really need to tell my church?” or “I committed adultery with this woman in my church. I’m not going to do it again. So, it’s okay if she is still a member, right?” or “I’ve asked God for forgiveness and He forgives all sin. So there’s no reason to tell anyone else. That’s what the Bible says, right?

Like Dad said, if you have to ask, your morality is probably a little messed up…

self-justificationNow, if you haven’t ever sinned or if you have never been in a situation where you’ve never been in serious trouble, you’re probably yelling at your computer screen. For those of you who find those questions ridiculous, let me tell you that they are very real and I get them A LOT. I don’t get as riled up as some people when I hear them because I understand why fallen people ask them. I fell from the ministry so let me tell you that I understand those questions from a certain viewpoint, so let me give you some insight on why they get asked in the first place.

When a pastor is engaged in sin, his moral compass (sorry if you don’t like that term) is extremely messed up. If someone has been committing adultery for a time, then think about what they’ve done. They’ve cheated on their spouse, emailing and texting someone, lying to their family, preaching while they’ve been sinning, justifying their behavior to themselves and the other person, probably not having a deep relationship with God, and putting on a false face for everyone.

So guess what? When they get caught, their usual reaction to sin is not going to be very strong. So don’t be too shocked when they say something like, “Well, I know I cheated on my wife, but God has forgiven me so you should too.

Yeah, it sounds ridiculous to us. And it makes us angry. But for a moment remember that this person is mired in a terrible pit of sin. Their morality meter has been shut off for a very long time. What they need right now is a few things. First, they need intervention. They need someone to speak the truth in a loving way to them. Second, they need someone to listen to them carefully. Third, they need someone who is going to love them – because this person is going to come to their senses soon and most of the world/church is going to be very angry with them.

Fallen pastors/fallen people say some very ridiculous things. Why? Because they have spentarrogant the past few months/years hiding their sin. And they’ve gotten really good at it. Also, they know the Bible pretty well – and they will use it as a tool to try to justify their sin. Is that right? Nope. It’s terrible. But that’s the place they are in.

And for a moment realize that all of us – each one of us – has justified our own sin at some point in our lives. We were all enemies of God before He saved us.

That’s why when I get asked one of those questions I listed above – I don’t get mad. I just remember that people are in a place where their sin has overwhelmed them to a point where they are not thinking clearly. Their sin has so much control over them that they are living the life of a person who is bound to do and say things that are not glorifying to God. I asked most of those questions when I fell. I was the same self-serving, sinful, blinded person. I thought I was okay, but I wasn’t. And I didn’t want to listen to anyone.

They don’t realize it. In fact, in some way, they will think that God is in control of that situation and anyone who speaks against them is their enemy. It’s part of their defense mechanism when they are in full sin justification mode. I know this because I’ve been there.

And I also know what it’s like when God comes in and takes off the blinders. I know what it’s like when God humbles us and lets us know that we have sinned horribly. It’s not the prettiest moment.

grace3But I’m thankful that in that moment, He also shows His amazing grace. I know that people aren’t always the kindest when we sin, but God is patient and long-suffering. People will say things and do things in reaction to our sin – and that is a result of our actions. But eventually, God will humble us and restore us if we humble ourselves.

Next time, I’m going to answer those questions above that a lot of fallen pastors (and church leaders who are trying to keep the peace) ask when they have been caught.

Churches, Christians, pastors, we are in a period of crisis. Pastors are falling at an alarming rate – some are committing suicide. What are we going to do to stop it? How will we change the church culture so that our ministers can become stable and secure?

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

____________________________

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

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

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

Pastors In Trouble 3: Ministers Are Fragile

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in burdens, burnout, Christ, church, church leadership, churches, conflict, counseling, depression, fallenness, humillity, isolation, pastoring, pastors, prevention, pride, stress, struggles | Posted on 05-03-2014

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handlePastors are in trouble. There seems to be an uptick of pastors leaving the ministry because of adultery, stress, conflict and some are committing suicide. In this series, I’m asking, “Why?” Last time, we looked at the church culture for answers. Now, let’s turn our attention to pastors.

Pastors are weak people. They’re fragile. If you could ship one in a large container via UPS, you’d need to put, “Handle With Care,” on the side.

I say this with utmost respect and familiarity. I was once a pastor and I fell. I talk regularly to fallen pastors and pastors in crisis. I even talk to pastor friends who are undergoing tremendous problems. In my book, I quote several statistics that back the fact up as well:

  • 30-40% of ministers ultimately drop out of ministry
  • 75% go through a period of stress so great, they consider quitting
  • 90% work more than 46 hours a week
  • 50% felt themselves unable to meet the needs of the job
  • 90% felt inadequately trained to cope with ministry demand
  • 70% say they have a lower self-esteem now compared to when they started in ministry
  • 40% reported serious conflict with a parishioner at least once a month

Pastors Should Be Weak

Biblically speaking, all of us are weak. Most of us know the verses. jars

  • But we have this treasure [knowledge of the glory of God] in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. (2 Corinthians 4:7, ESV)
  • But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. (1 Corinthians 1:27-29, ESV)

I don’t know any pastors who don’t think this is true. In fact, I know most pastors who speak of ministers of fallen and say, “I am a weak person. I know that could happen to me. I know I have to be careful.”

So, if pastors know they are weak, why are they falling at such a high rate?

For Some Pastors, Their Humility is “False Hustle”

I work in sports medicine and cover a lot of basketball. Long ago, I was talking to a girls basketball coach about a player he had. She was always running around the court, moving as fast as she could, sweating like a dog, but she never seemed to be doing anything that contributed to the team.

The coach said, “She’s got what we call ‘false hustle.’ She moves fast and it looks like she’s doing something. It looks like she’s playing the game, but she’s just running around with no real purpose.

bballI fear that there are a lot of pastors who say the words, “I know I could fall just like anyone else,” but unfortunately, they have pride deep in their hearts. Pride says, “I don’t need help from anyone. I’m the pastor. I’m the one who is supposed to have the answers.” They can fix their own problems. They don’t need close friends, they can run the church. They don’t need anyone’s opinion. I know. I’ve been there.

And ultimately, what they never seem to need is the objective opinion of a counselor, mentor, spouse or pastor telling them that they might be headed down the wrong path.

What they’re engaged in looks like ministry. They’re working hard, visiting, smiling when they need to smile, preaching when they need to preach, but they have neglected their own soul. They haven’t protected themselves from a fall. There is a wall of isolation around them. To be fair, it might be there because they’ve been hurt before – or it might be there because they don’t want to delegate anything. Either way, trouble is brewing.

What Can Be Done?

I’ve covered this and it seems so simple, but it holds great truth. I’m worried that many ministers have forgotten their calling. It didn’t happen intentionally. But pastors, when they started had something very simple, but very powerful – they had their calling from God and faith in Him.

I bet if pastors went back and thought about their first sermons, they’d cringe in terror. Most pastors think their early stuff was pretty awful. And compared to where they are now, it probably sounds that way to them. But that’s not the point.

The point is that in the beginning, we knew that no matter what came, we knew we had the Everything Else Follows PreachingWord of God and faith in Christ and we could get through anything. Somewhere along the way, the extra jobs came. The programs came that were so important. The committee meetings piled up. In time, we forget to rely on God and we start to rely on our “talents” and the programs that are supposed to bring people into the church.

But Christ is really all we need. Allowing Him to take control of His church and do what He will with it. We looked at the clay pot within us and decided it had grown strong because of our experience and position.

But it’s not. We were called because we were fools. Because we are weak. And that’s okay.

The stress, anxiety, depression, and feelings of failure came when as weak fools and clay pots, we decided to place burdens on ourselves that God never designed for us to bear. And so, we break. We fall apart. We shatter.

God has called us and has equipped us. But the entire time, He has chosen us because He will do the work through us and receive the glory for it.

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

Extra Content: Excellent article from lastingleaders.com on Overwhelmed Pastors

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

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

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

Pastors in Trouble 2a: The Community of Faith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Danger Lurking In All Our Hearts

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, church, church leadership, church members, fallenness, guilt, leadership, ministry, pastoring, pastors, repentance, restoration | Posted on 29-01-2014

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When I’m not helping fallen pastors and those affected by ministry failure, I work in the field of sports medicine.

So, the other day, I found myself at a basketball game standing between a school administrator and a police officer. (Sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, right?) I was telling them about an athlete I had years ago whose injury never got better because he refused to listen to the help I was offering.

I said, “He just refused to follow my instructions. If he had just listened to the experts, his injury would have gotten better. But some people just refuse to listen to those who are trying to help them.”

I suddenly remembered I was talking to a seasoned high school administrator and a police officer. I then said jokingly, “But I guess you guys wouldn’t know anything about that, would you?” They both laughed.

Every day the school administrator has kids sent to him who are causing problems in class. And I know this guy – he’s friendly and likes the kids. Almost always, when a belligerent student who has just gotten into trouble comes into his office, he tries to lighten the mood. But you know what? Nine times out of ten, the kid doesn’t want any of it. They’re in a defensive mood and keep sulking, they’re angry and they want to do things their way.

Take the police officer. Now, you may have opinions about different officers of the law, but this guy I was standing next to is fantastic. Let’s just say if I was going to be arrested, I’d want him to do it. Wait. Anyway, he’s been in his share of tough spots. And he has the right philosophy – policearhe’s there to protect and serve. Even when he’s got someone who is suspected of a crime and he’s trying to calm them down, he’s there to help them. But when someone is in trouble, they often don’t want to listen and they’re often defensive and end up getting a ride in the back of the police car.

Then I think about my ministry here at Fallen Pastor. I get a lot of emails from guys who really, really want help. They have sinned and want to be restored.

Then, I’ll get an email from a guy who has sinned and may or may not have been caught. And he wants to know what he can do to stay in the ministry and save face. Now, for a moment, I’ll talk to them and tell them that he needs to deal with his sin. He’s committed a grave sin that needs to be confessed to God, his spouse and he needs to tell his church leadership as well as his church. If he’s repentant, he will come to the point where he knows he needs to do this.

But some guys don’t ever come to this realization. They want to stay where they are, ministering, pastoring, leading the flock while holding on to this sin. They say it’s enough to privately confess their sin before God and move on.

First, let me say that we all have this sort of desire to tuck our sins away within us. Just the childshopother day, I sat and listened to several people launch into a random conversation about shoplifting. All of these people are now well respected adults but they all admitted that when they were very young, they had each stolen an item from a grocery store and gotten caught. Interestingly, their parents had seen them. What was their first instinct? To hide their sin.

And honestly, most of us are hiding some type of sin at this very moment. Most of us are walking around with some major unconfessed sin that we don’t want anyone knowing about. We just keep it tucked away, keep committing it, thinking we have control over it. But we don’t. Sin is a vile thing that controls us – not the other way around.

Secondly, I want you to know that I treat everyone the same who contacts me. Whether a person repents or not, I’m still there for them. If they keep emailing me and telling me they’re not sure if they can repent, I’ll still talk to them. Know why? Because repentance isn’t something I can force on them. It’s a work and conviction of the Holy Spirit. And when or if it happens, they’re going to need someone to talk to.

ashamed3So when I get those emails or calls from a minister or church leaders who keeps wanting to lead their church while not letting anyone know that they have committed adultery, I tell them they absolutely must do it. That I am speaking from experience and authority. Scripture tells us that we must confess our sin.

Church leaders who have been entrusted to care for others cannot effectually lead others while there is sin and not tell their congregations. They were hired or appointed to be trustworthy people and have violated that trust. Is it easy to tell the church leaders or membership? No, absolutely not. But it is the right thing to do. And in the long run, it is the much better thing to do.

I’ve seen pastors who have sinned, kept the secret, then go to another church. Disaster followed them. I’ve seen pastors who sinned then tried to keep it covered and it ended up much worse than if they had just come clean. I’ve heard of men who committed adultery 20 years ago, the church leadership covered it up to keep the church from dividing, and then it came out much later only to cause even more damage than it would have in the beginning.

Friends, in conclusion, this message is for everyone. Unconfessed sin is a blight on your soul. repentncIt’s even worse for someone in a ministry position who is leading others. Don’t let it fester and weigh upon your mind. It will stay with you. Do what is right, confess what you need to confess.

If you need help, I’m here. I know you don’t know me, but I am here to help with a network of other men to guide you to if additional help is needed. If you don’t want to talk to me, pick up a copy of my book first, call a friend, or a former seminary professor, or a pastor friend, or your local bishop, or director of missions. Anyone. Just know that you aren’t alone.

Other people have been exactly where you are. Most of all know these two things – doing the right thing is never wrong. And know that you are loved and there is help for you.

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