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(Be warned, this is a long post. You might have to start reading then pick it up later. But it might be worth it.) Five years ago today, my mother died in a car accident. First let me tell you what I’m not going to talk about. In my blog, I’ve covered how a crisis...

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Pastors In Trouble: What Can Be Done?

Posted by fallenpastor | Posted in church, church leadership, culture, fallenness, pastors | Posted on 14-04-2015

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fallingWe’ve been looking at the current crisis facing the church today – pastors are falling at an alarming rate. Many are feeling tremendous pressure, conflict, and other forces that they are leaving the ministry, committing adultery and some are committing suicide.

In summary, what can be done?

Associations, denominational leaders, bishops, and state leadership groups need to be intentional about the situation. I get the feeling that “at the top,” the feeling is that the local church needs to be handling the situation. That’s true – when a pastor falls, it’s the responsibility of the local church to handle the situation as they see fit.

But there needs to be some type of help from groups higher up the chain. Those groups need to be equipped to provide help if asked for it. It’s important for them to suggest guidelines on how to handle the fallen pastor situation. Even more important is understanding the root problem and helping prevent it.

Also, local church leaders, elders, and deacons need to be aware of how fragile their pastor is. Are they aware of the hours he’s working? What is churcholdtheir impression of how stressed he is? When was the last time the pastor had a real vacation? Has he had any recent crisis events? Are the church leaders doing all they can when conflict arises to stand by the pastor and help fix the situation?

Church leaders also need to be aware of how demanding pastoral ministry is. Any pastor can fall. Any minister can be weakened to a place where he will want to quit the church. Unfortunately, many pastors are so good at hiding their stress and frustration that their departure will come as a surprise. There are many good books and resources on helping the pastor and understanding him. But one of the best things to do is just talking to him.

What can the church do? I have argued more than once that today’s church is not what it was designed to be. The modern church looks more like a club where religious people attend on Sunday than a community of faith that can transform lives.

When people can be part of something and be real, open their hearts to one another on daily basis by sharing themselves through prayer and through the Word of God, it will be a community where everyone – including the pastor – can be real. It will be a community not driven by programs, numbers, budget or power groups – but a group of people gathered for the glory of Christ and consumed with loving each other.

What can the pastor do? He can start by remembering where he began. God called him – a foolish, weak man. He didn’t call him to the ministry because he was a good-looking, amazing speaker. He called him because he was a willing vessel. He just wants us. He wants our brokenness.

pastorofficeAt some point, all of us tried doing too much. We thought in our effort, we needed to do something better. And when we did, we let pride in the door.

One day, we found ourselves in an office, surrounded by books, with less time to pray, with too many commitments, with a ton of programs, and less time for Christ.

When I tell people that pastors are in trouble today more than ever before, I don’t mean the guys who have already fallen. I mean the guys who don’t think they’re in trouble. I mean the guys who think they’re okay. The guys who have convinced themselves that even though they’re stressed, burned out, working too hard, whose marriages aren’t as good as they used to be, who are unhappy at the core – those are the guys who are in trouble.

Because on the inside while they are hurting – on the outside they keep telling everyone that “everything is fine.”

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.

Hey Wait, I’m The Samaritan!

Posted by fallenpastor | Posted in fallenness, judgmental, ministry, restoration | Posted on 06-04-2015

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I remember the touching story of the “Good” Samaritan growing up in Sunday School. Jesus told it in response to a question asked him – “Who is my neighbor?” Dude gets beat up while traveling home. He’s left for dead by the side of the road. A priest and a Levite both pass him by and ignore the heck out of him.

feltboardThe third man who passes by is a Samaritan. As a child, we learned that we should all be like that Samaritan and help people in need as the teacher pasted the little flannel picture of the Good Samaritan on the board.

Then I went to Seminary. I remember the class well. It was hermenutics taught by Dr. Robert Stein. His first statement was, “Where does the Savior ever call the Samaritan ‘good’?”

Oh, snap. Never noticed that. He then informed us of how the Jewish audience hearing the parable would have been aghast hearing that a Samaritan would have been the one who had stopped to help in the first place. In those days, the Samaritans were viewed as “half-breeds.” They were ascended from the Assyrians and had married Jewish people. Many Jews hated them.

Therefore, for Jesus to put a Samaritan as the hero of the story was a stunner. It offended his largely Jewish audience. Especially when he asked the man who had posed the original question, “Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” (Luke 10:36 ESV) The man couldn’t even bring himself to say the word “Samaritan.” Instead, he said,“The one who showed him mercy.”

Over the past five years, I’ve been trying to find my place in the world after I fell from ministry. There were days I didn’t want to go into Wal-Mart or Kroger for fear of seeing someone I might know. I would hang my head in shame while in public, hoping no one recognized me. Over time, this feeling went away as I grasped the full forgiveness of God.

I did struggle with how to help other people. I wanted to minister. I always kept the words of Hershael York from my book in the back of my mind“Your repentance has to be more notorious than your sin.” So, for the past five years, I’ve been an ear for fallen pastors, tried to keep my head above water, and tried (sometimes on target) to do the right thing.

Two things happened recently that might sound like a humble brag, but they’re not. They struck a chord in me.

trapA while back, I was driving down a long stretch of interstate and saw a car broken down. Now, my mother, God rest her soul, always told me to never stop in such a situation. I can hear her now, “It’s a trap!” (Or maybe that was Admiral Ackbar.) Anyway, something within me told me to stop for this 1987 Buick Century.

I got out and five people got out. They looked worse for wear. One was on a cell phone. I asked them if a tow was coming. No, apparently, they couldn’t get a tow. The car was overheated. I’ll be honest, they didn’t smell too great. Amazingly, enough, I had a brand new container of coolant in my car and I went to get it. The car still didn’t start. The guy who was there said, “We need some tape to tape up this pipe.” Amazingly, again, I had trainer’s tape (for my job) and got some.

While he was taping, I began talking to a young woman. She said, “Thank you for stopping. We’ve been here for an hour. No one has stopped. Five people have honked. Even a state trooper. I just got out of the hospital after having a miscarriage.”

The guy said, “I’m done, let’s start it up!” It started. Every one in the car hugged me. And I hugged back, choking back tears.

A few days later, I was in the IGA parking lot and I swear it was thecar01 same 1987 Buick Century. It was a young couple and they pulled up next to me. The young woman was in the drivers seat and her husband was leaned back in the passenger seat, seemingly embarrassed. She said, “I wouldn’t normally asked, but we’re on empty. We have no money. If you just have a dollar, please.”

I said, “I’m sorry,” as I opened my wallet. “I don’t carry cash.” I went into the store and couldn’t stop thinking about them. I could almost hear God say, “Get them money.” I got to the checkout and said out loud to the cashier (who must have thought I was nuts) “I can get money off my debit card!” She said (looking at me like I was an idiot), “Yes, you can, sir.”

I ran back out to the parking lot but didn’t see them. But I turned to my right and they were sitting there talking to another woman who was trying to get away from them. I ran over to them and gave them the cash. She said, “Are you serious?” I said, “Yes ma’am! God be with you.” She yelled out the loudest, “Hallelujah!”

I looked over and her husband was smiling and crying.

That’s when it hit me. I was the Samaritan. I was the one Jesus called. The outcast to minister to others. Rejected by many, but still very useful to God. Surrounded by neighbors in need.

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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.

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Is Forgiveness For The Remarried Wishful Thinking?

Posted by fallenpastor | Posted in adultery, fallenness, remarriage | Posted on 30-03-2015

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

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

Is forgiveness for the remarried wishful thinking?

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

For some, that is the answer. Judging by the occasional angry email I get, that’s the answer for a lot of people.

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

I don’t believe that those sins are unforgivable. Once we’ve trudged on and made our decisions before the face of God and despite His Word, we have a lot to consider. If we’ve remarried and forged ahead, there’s little to be done. Someone will say, “You shouldn’t sin to expect grace to abound.” To be gracious to that statement, I will only answer that there are millions of marriages that fail.

If Christian marriages were as great as they could be, partnered by Spirit filled people who were doing what they should, within a Spirit filled community, I surmise that we would have a lot less problems. But it is futile to throw stones when we don’t have a grasp of the situation.


 What is the evangelical answer to more than half of the population? “Well, I’m sorry, but you’re living in perpetual adultery. You’re out of luck.


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

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

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

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

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

eggs4When they cast the adulterous woman at the feet of Christ, He didn’t waste his time with those who judged her. He spent His attention and time on her. When He finally answered them, they were ashamed and went away. Finally He said to her, “Is anyone left to condemn you? Go and sin no more.

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

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

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

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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.

 

What To Do When A Pastor Falls, Pt. 1

Posted by fallenpastor | Posted in adultery, church leadership, church members, fallenness, pastors | Posted on 26-03-2015

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I wanted to be able to write something to help churches and leaders have a guide for what to do when a 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 five years.  (You might want to check out my book or contact me directly for more in depth help on the issue.)

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 without any kind of meeting with him or examination of the evidence.

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, I’ll talk about meeting with the pastor and how to understand his reaction.

Click here for part 2 and here for part 3.

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.

Help With The Crisis of Fallen Pastors

Posted by fallenpastor | Posted in fallenness, ministry, pastors | Posted on 16-03-2015

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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 are plenty of blog posts here concerning fallen pastors, their wives, how churches can get started after a pastor falls, and many other issues. If you’re looking for help, this is one place to start.

My book, “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World,” also gives insight on why pastors fall and how we can understand the process better and prevent it.

I am available to you on the phone or if my schedule allows it, in person. I have a strong network of people I trust who can help in many different situations. Please don’t hesitate to contact me.

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.

Pastors and the Batman Problem

Posted by fallenpastor | Posted in burnout, failure, fallenness, ministry, pastoring, pastors, prevention | Posted on 25-02-2015

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jokerAs a Batman fan, something struck me the other day while I was watching the new hit TV show, Gotham. In my years of reading Batman and Detective Comics, why didn’t Batman/Bruce Wayne ever build a better prison to lock up the Joker?

The Joker is responsible for a lot of death and destruction and he’s typically housed in Arkham Asylum from which he’s escaped on numerous occasions.

So why didn’t/doesn’t Bruce/Batman spend a little Wayne Foundation money on making sure that the Joker is in an escape-proof, Joker-tight, laser-guarded, seven-miles-below-the-earth, impossible to escape from cell? Everything else is plausible in the comic book world, why not that?

Honestly, for a man who doesn’t seem to want to kill, prevention should be pretty high on his list, right?

Then that got me to thinking about this ministry, pastors and the Batman problem.  Every pastor has the Joker looming around the corner. Most every pastor would admit that he is capable of ministry failure. Whether that’s adultery, sexual sin, burnout, or his marriage falling apart – most pastors know it can happen.

Even more, most pastors give some degree of lip service to it. Some guys protect their hearts and marriages. A lot of guys will say, “Oh yeah, everything is fine in my marriage and ministry,” even though things are falling down around them.

Despite whether we deny the reality of future temptation or not, it exists and can happen. It’s like the Joker. And we can choose to build a prison for the guy and get ready for him, or we can ignore that he’s there and let him wreak havoc whenever he decides to show up.

Pastors aren’t stupid. They know how to protect their hearts. Theycesarjoker know what they should and shouldn’t be looking at. They know that they need accountability and mentoring. It’s just doing it. It’s realizing that all of us need help, regardless of education, age or experience, swallowing our pride and asking for support.

I’m here to help. If you want to know if your church is equipped for ministry failure, I can help. If you want resources, check out my blogroll. If you have a private question, go to my contact page.

But understand that if we don’t take steps to lock up the villains on our own, they will find us and do some serious damage. 

____________________________

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 High Co$t of Pastoral Adultery

Posted by fallenpastor | Posted in adultery, fallenness, prevention | Posted on 20-01-2015

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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.

____________________________

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?

Posted by fallenpastor | Posted in fallenness, forgiveness, guest blog | Posted on 07-01-2015

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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?

Posted by fallenpastor | Posted in adultery, fallenness, pastors | Posted on 30-12-2014

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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?

Posted by fallenpastor | Posted in depression, fallenness, pastors | Posted on 23-12-2014

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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.