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Was reminded of this little beauty the other day. Wanted to share it. It’s become a favorite of mine in recent years. Fire and Ice by Robert Frost Some say the world will end in fire, Some say in ice. From what I’ve tasted of desire I hold with those who favor fire. But if it had to perish...

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Restoring the Adulterous Plumber and Pastor

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, church members, churches, forgiveness, restoration | Posted on 25-08-2014

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Fallen pastors go through a series of stages after their fall from ministry. It’s a topic that consumes a lot of space in my book, “Fallen Pastor.”plumber

Fallen pastors spend a lot of time being angry and justifying their actions. I know I did. Anyone caught in sin, as we all know, have the same reaction. Whether we get caught stealing, lying or breaking any number of God’s laws, each of us has an instinct to further sin and justify our actions. In our self-justification, we often become angry at those whom we have hurt and are angry with us.

Several of the fallen pastors I interviewed for my book (as well as me) had a response like this: “The local plumber, architect, or attorney can commit adultery and no one cares. But if the pastor does it, it’s the worst sin imaginable. He’s thrown out of church, everyone gets angry and forgiveness is never granted to him.

There is a lot of truth in this statement. However, as time has passed and repentance came, I realized that there were better ways of looking at the situation.

First, people do still gossip and talk when others commit adultery. However, when the pastor falls, the volume does get turned up. There is a reason for it. Scripturally, more is expected from church leaders than others. They are to be “above reproach.” When they are found to be otherwise, it can be an awful shock to those who placed their faith in him as well as a chance for an unbelieving world to cast doubt upon the message of Christ.

One of my angry arguments used to be that the church shouldn’t be any more angry at the layperson who committed adultery and was allowed back in the church after forgiveness than they were the fallen pastor. That might be a poor choice of words. But it cannot be denied that pastors are to be expected to be held to a higher standard as overseers of the flock. Does that mean that Bob the plumber doesn’t have to follow the ten commandments? Absolutely not. It does mean that a pastor is called to be a church leader. A shepherd. He is Bob’s leader and has a responsibility to display a life of righteousness inside and outside the church.

“Does that mean that Bob the plumber doesn’t have to follow the ten commandments? Absolutely not. It does mean that a pastor is ordained to be a church leader. A shepherd. He is Bob’s leader and has a responsibility to display a life of righteousness inside and outside the church.”

This doesn’t mean the pastor is “better than” Bob. It just means he has a life that is supposed to display qualities of biblical leadership that people should be encouraged to follow.

There are other leaders in our society who are held to a higher standard as well. Politicians, for one.  I blogged about Congressman Anthony Weiner and his fall from office after inappropriate Twitter conversations with women other than his wife. It should be noted, I don’t care for politics. But as far as I’m aware, there is no moral rule regarding politicians versus others. There have been immoral politicians since politics began, regardless of party, and each time there are people with demands that they should step down.

My point is this – there is no rule for career politicians to be moral, as far as I am aware. But there is a law for God’s people. All of God’s people. The law is the same but the standard is higher for leaders. “Let it not even be spoken of you.

There is another matter, one of forgiveness. When a Christian violates God’s law and repents, forgiveness is available immediately. Our God is just and loving and will forgive. We may not escape the consequences of our sin on earth, but we may find His peace now.

The sin of a layperson will probably not hurt a church as much as the moral fall of a pastor. When a pastor falls, the repercussions last for many years. The fallen pastors I speak to tell me that decades later, they still have not found reconciliation with their former church.

Regardless of who sins within the church, all members of the community of faith should be approached with the restoration attitude of Galatians 6:1. When one among us sins, we should see them as a fallen brother or sister in Christ, one who needs restoration back to Him.

Restoring the Sinning Brother,” John MacArthur

Restoring the Sinner,” by wordandspirit

Restoring Fallen Brethren,” by Ryan Hicks

Bearing Burdens: How One Sinner Relates to the Sin Of Another,” by Bob Deffinbaugh

____________________________

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

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

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

Does God Continue To Punish Us After He Forgives Us?

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in forgiveness, God, punishment | Posted on 22-08-2014

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This is a heavy post. How do we perceive God’s punishment vs. the consequences of our sin?

Let me start it with an example from the life of a fallen pastor. This is a real question I’ve been asked, and asked myself. godpunishAs a fallen pastor, after I’ve been forgiven of my adultery, will God continue to punish me for the sin I’ve committed? Will He bring horrible calamities my way (cancer, sickness to my children) in the form of punishment as well as me facing the normal consequences of my sin (church people being angry, child support, pastors who ignore me, etc.)?

They are two different things to be considered. God’s punishment for our sin and the consequences for our sin. When I counsel fallen pastors or women who have been with fallen pastors, these are two things that come up in conversation very frequently.

Honestly, it took me a long time to come to a biblical answer on my own, so please bear with me. I will quote Scripture and the work of others in this matter because it is such an important issue.

Consequences

Let’s look at consequences first. When we sin, we own it. It is ours to bear. In Psalm 51, David acknowledged his sin before God after committing adultery with Bathsheba and murdering her husband. He asked for repentance and to be clean before God. This is so important for any Christian who has sinned. We must come to a place of repentance before God. Our sin is against God. We must answer to Him for what we have done.

Let’s liken it to a courtroom. Let’s say we have been brought before a judge for the felony of grand theft auto. We might stand before the judge and say, “Judge, I am guilty of this charge. I repent of my actions and I throw myself upon the mercy of the court.” Does that mean we will get off without a penalty?

It reminds me of the scene in “Oh, Brother Where Art Thou” when Delmar had just been baptized and thought that his baptism had cleared him of all civil wrongdoing, including a Piggly Wiggly he had robbed:

Pete: The preacher said he absolved us.

Everett: For him. Not for the law. I’m surprised at you Pete. I gave you credit for more brains than Delmar.

Delmar: But they was witnesses that seen us redeemed.

Everett: That’s not the issue Delmar. Even if it did put you square with the Lord, the state of Mississippi’s a little more hardnosed.

hammersThe problem is that even though a sinner is repentant, washed clean by Christ, we have to face the consequences of our actions. I know that after I committed adultery, there were many consequences to what I had done that I still face today.

Are those consequences the same as punishment? Here’s a quote from A. W. Pink, courtesy of Eric T. Young:

But while the believer’s sins cannot be punished, while the Christian cannot be condemned (Rom. 8:3), yet he may be chastised. The Christian occupies an entirely different position from the non-Christian: he is a member of the Family of God. The relationship which now exists between him and God is that of parent and child; and as a son he must be disciplined for wrongdoing. Folly is bound up in the hearts of all God’s children, and the rod is necessary to rebuke, to subdue, to humble.

When we lie, there will be consequences. When we gossip, consequences will come. When we commit any type of sin, there will be God-wrought consequences. They are a form of discipline. They may last long after we repent. We reap what we sow, friends. And when we do, the best thing we can do is to meet those consequences face to face with grace and humility, knowing that we cause the initial calamity, praying that overcoming the consequences will bring about glory to God in our sanctification.

Punishment

What about punishment? Over the years, I’ve heard a lot of fallen people say, “I’ve repented of my sin, but I can’t help but think that my newborn child died because of my adultery,” or “I repented, but my new business/ministry failed because God was judging me because of my past sin. Is He still punishing me?”

I can’t give you a clear answer to every question, but I can turn to the Scriptures and help guide you along.

The best guideline is Romans 8:1-2, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” But we must realize that for this promise is for those who repent. Christians who live in a constant state of disobedience and unrepentance are in a difficult place.

Romans 6 tells us of the life we live free from sin and also the life lived within sin: “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:22-23 ESV)

Unrepentant sin leads to punishment. Scripture is clear on that. It is punishment plus consequences. The beauty of it all is that when we confess our sin and turn from it, God casts that sin as far as the east is from the west and remembers it no eastwestmore (Psalm 103:12). We still have to deal with the earthly consequences of our sin. That is the hole we have dug for ourselves. But we are free from the punishment that sin brings to bear upon us.

What are we to do? If you’re a fallen pastor, or a sinner who is living continually in sin, repent. Cast off that sin by confessing it to God. Find someone close to you with whom you can be accountable to and with whom you can share this with. You will need support and mentoring. Do no do this alone. Do not stand under the punishment of God.

Next, after you have repented, understand that you are free. God has forgiven you. When tragedy strikes, it is not the hand of God reaching down to punish you for your previous sins. He has cast that sin away. There may be consequences for your sin for a long time – people treating you poorly, financial payments, broken relationships – but know that horrible events in your life are not acts of God reaching out to punish you for past sins.

Once you have repented and have been forgiven, you are forgiven. Isaiah 43:25, “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” Isaiah 1:18, “Come now, let us reason together,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.”

To tie it up with a personal example, when I committed adultery as a pastor, I was not repentant. I was therefore, under the divine judgment of God. He was free to punish me – He was my Heavenly Father and I was His follower. I was way out of line and not following His commands. My own actions and behaviors were enough punishment, but He was free to punish me further.

When I repented of my sins (under the divine influence of His Spirit), He forgave me of my sin. At that moment, my sin was forgiven. Were the consequences of my adultery gone? No. I still had many people who were upset with me, many broken relationships, and a long road of restoration ahead. The consequences still surround me today because of the sin I committed. But God is with me as I travel down that road, working all things together for His glory.

You are forgiven when you turn to God and repent. Consequences may follow, but they are not the same as divine punishment. Face the consequences with grace and take each day with a step toward the holiness of God, knowing “after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” 1 Peter 5:10.

Other helpful articles:

The Judgments: Past, Present, and Future – J. Hampton Keathley III (while I do not completely agree with his eschatology, his insights to this present topic are astounding)

Punishment vs. Consequence – Tony J. Alicea, Living in the Tension

What’s the Difference Between Punishment, Consequences, Discipline, Training, and Instruction – Brad Hambrick

Does God Punish Us When We Sin? – God Questions.org

____________________________

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

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

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

Can We Just Forgive Someone “In Our Heart?”

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in forgiveness, reconciliation | Posted on 25-07-2014

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forgivemeI want to write about a statement that really, really bothers me. “I’ve forgiven ‘so and so’ in my heart.”

I have heard this sentiment over and over for many years. I understand what it means. Usually, it means, “I say I forgive them, but I never really want to tell them I forgive them.

Is this true, biblical forgiveness? Does Jesus ever tell us that we can “forgive someone in our heart” then never tell them that we’ve forgiven them?

No.

Now, I’ll grant that there are times that we need to give forgiveness and that full reconciliation is not going to happen. I get that. That’s not what I’m talking about.

I’m talking about John Churchgoer who doesn’t want to face the person who has wronged him and say, “I forgive you.” He doesn’t want to accept the apology or repentance of the person who is offering it. He doesn’t want to look that person in the eye ever again, as is required by Scripture. He just wants an “out.”

So he says, “I forgive him in my heart.”

Real forgiveness that involves face to face reconciliation is vital because it begins the healing process. It gives both parties the chance to have peace about the situation.

Where did this horrible phrase ever come from? It needs to be stricken from our vocabulary and replaced with true forgiveness. I have a feeling that this silent forgiveness exists because of the statement Jesus made in Matthew 6:14, “If you forgive men when they sin against you, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you.” And then, he states the negative. Maybe instead of facing people to reconcile with them and make peace, somewhere along the line, we decided it would be much easier on us if we just “forgave them in our  heart.”

But it’s just not biblical. I would encourage you that if you know someone who is repentant and has asked for forgiveness to ask why you haven’t forgiven them. Does it mean you still shouldn’t have boundaries, be careful with your trust, or have a heart to heart? No, but forgiveness is something we should never withhold.

Forgiveness needs to be real and honest. It doesn’t need to be silent. It’s either real or not. It’s either genuine and seeking toward reconciliation or it’s not.

Other helpful articles:

As We Forgive Our Debtors,” from Desiring God, John Piper

What Does the Bible Say About Forgiveness?,” by Mary Fairchild

What Does Real Forgiveness Look Like?” The Reformed Reader

__________________

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.

Men Who Smell Like Pigs: Restoring Fallen Pastors

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in fallenness, forgiveness, pastors, reconciliation | Posted on 23-07-2014

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

Let me explain.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

____________________________

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

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

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

God’s Punishment vs. Consequences of Sin

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, consequences, forgiveness, God, guilt, punishment, sin | Posted on 30-06-2014

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This is a heavy post. How do we perceive God’s punishment vs. the consequences of our sin?

Let me start it with an example from the life of a fallen pastor. This is a real question I’ve been asked, and asked myself. godpunishAs a fallen pastor, after I’ve been forgiven of my adultery, will God continue to punish me for the sin I’ve committed? Will He bring horrible calamities my way (cancer, sickness to my children) in the form of punishment as well as me facing the normal consequences of my sin (church people being angry, child support, pastors who ignore me, etc.)?

They are two different things to be considered. God’s punishment for our sin and the consequences for our sin. When I counsel fallen pastors or women who have been with fallen pastors, these are two things that come up in conversation very frequently.

Honestly, it took me a long time to come to a biblical answer on my own, so please bear with me. I will quote Scripture and the work of others in this matter because it is such an important issue.

Consequences

Let’s look at consequences first. When we sin, we own it. It is ours to bear. In Psalm 51, David acknowledged his sin before God after committing adultery with Bathsheba and murdering her husband. He asked for repentance and to be clean before God. This is so important for any Christian who has sinned. We must come to a place of repentance before God. Our sin is against God. We must answer to Him for what we have done.

Let’s liken it to a courtroom. Let’s say we have been brought before a judge for the felony of grand theft auto. We might stand before the judge and say, “Judge, I am guilty of this charge. I repent of my actions and I throw myself upon the mercy of the court.” Does that mean we will get off without a penalty?

It reminds me of the scene in “Oh, Brother Where Art Thou” when Delmar had just been baptized and thought that his baptism had cleared him of all civil wrongdoing, including a Piggly Wiggly he had robbed:

Pete: The preacher said he absolved us.

Everett: For him. Not for the law. I’m surprised at you Pete. I gave you credit for more brains than Delmar.

Delmar: But they was witnesses that seen us redeemed.

Everett: That’s not the issue Delmar. Even if it did put you square with the Lord, the state of Mississippi’s a little more hardnosed.

hammersThe problem is that even though a sinner is repentant, washed clean by Christ, we have to face the consequences of our actions. I know that after I committed adultery, there were many consequences to what I had done that I still face today.

Are those consequences the same as punishment? Here’s a quote from A. W. Pink, courtesy of Eric T. Young:

But while the believer’s sins cannot be punished, while the Christian cannot be condemned (Rom. 8:3), yet he may be chastised. The Christian occupies an entirely different position from the non-Christian: he is a member of the Family of God. The relationship which now exists between him and God is that of parent and child; and as a son he must be disciplined for wrongdoing. Folly is bound up in the hearts of all God’s children, and the rod is necessary to rebuke, to subdue, to humble.

When we lie, there will be consequences. When we gossip, consequences will come. When we commit any type of sin, there will be God-wrought consequences. They are a form of discipline. They may last long after we repent. We reap what we sow, friends. And when we do, the best thing we can do is to meet those consequences face to face with grace and humility, knowing that we cause the initial calamity, praying that overcoming the consequences will bring about glory to God in our sanctification.

Punishment

What about punishment? Over the years, I’ve heard a lot of fallen people say, “I’ve repented of my sin, but I can’t help but think that my newborn child died because of my adultery,” or “I repented, but my new business/ministry failed because God was judging me because of my past sin. Is He still punishing me?”

I can’t give you a clear answer to every question, but I can turn to the Scriptures and help guide you along.

The best guideline is Romans 8:1-2, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” But we must realize that for this promise is for those who repent. Christians who live in a constant state of disobedience and unrepentance are in a difficult place.

Romans 6 tells us of the life we live free from sin and also the life lived within sin: “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:22-23 ESV)

Unrepentant sin leads to punishment. Scripture is clear on that. It is punishment plus consequences. The beauty of it all is that when we confess our sin and turn from it, God casts that sin as far as the east is from the west and remembers it no eastwestmore (Psalm 103:12). We still have to deal with the earthly consequences of our sin. That is the hole we have dug for ourselves. But we are free from the punishment that sin brings to bear upon us.

What are we to do? If you’re a fallen pastor, or a sinner who is living continually in sin, repent. Cast off that sin by confessing it to God. Find someone close to you with whom you can be accountable to and with whom you can share this with. You will need support and mentoring. Do no do this alone. Do not stand under the punishment of God.

Next, after you have repented, understand that you are free. God has forgiven you. When tragedy strikes, it is not the hand of God reaching down to punish you for your previous sins. He has cast that sin away. There may be consequences for your sin for a long time – people treating you poorly, financial payments, broken relationships – but know that horrible events in your life are not acts of God reaching out to punish you for past sins.

Once you have repented and have been forgiven, you are forgiven. Isaiah 43:25, “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” Isaiah 1:18, “Come now, let us reason together,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.”

To tie it up with a personal example, when I committed adultery as a pastor, I was not repentant. I was therefore, under the divine judgment of God. He was free to punish me – He was my Heavenly Father and I was His follower. I was way out of line and not following His commands. My own actions and behaviors were enough punishment, but He was free to punish me further.

When I repented of my sins (under the divine influence of His Spirit), He forgave me of my sin. At that moment, my sin was forgiven. Were the consequences of my adultery gone? No. I still had many people who were upset with me, many broken relationships, and a long road of restoration ahead. The consequences still surround me today because of the sin I committed. But God is with me as I travel down that road, working all things together for His glory.

You are forgiven when you turn to God and repent. Consequences may follow, but they are not the same as divine punishment. Face the consequences with grace and take each day with a step toward the holiness of God, knowing “after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” 1 Peter 5:10.

Other helpful articles:

The Judgments: Past, Present, and Future – J. Hampton Keathley III (while I do not completely agree with his eschatology, his insights to this present topic are astounding)

Punishment vs. Consequence – Tony J. Alicea, Living in the Tension

What’s the Difference Between Punishment, Consequences, Discipline, Training, and Instruction – Brad Hambrick

Does God Punish Us When We Sin? – God Questions.org

____________________________

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

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

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

 

Can I Forgive Myself?

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in forgiveness, grace, guilt, theology | Posted on 16-06-2014

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Should Christians forgive themselves? I’m not addressing anything new here. If you’re not aware of the disagreement, let me give you a brief synopsis. It centers around the questions, “Can I forgive myself? Is self-forgiveness possible?”

shameOn one hand, there are those who say that Christians are fooling themselves when they seek to “forgive themselves.” Self-forgiveness is not biblical. If we have sinned and repented, God has already forgiven us. We can’t forgive ourselves any further. Here’s how John MacArthur puts it:

The person who complains about not being self-forgiving is often simply looking for flattering or consoling words from others as a way of salving the hurt that guilt has caused to their pride.” (Another helpful article here on this side of the argument.)

On the other side are those who say that self-forgiveness is necessary. Christians may have the knowledge that forgiveness has been applied, but they still wallow in guilt. However, their continued self-doubt has trouble accepting it. Here’s what blogger Michelle Van Loon writes:

On the other side of the equation, I think . . . we need to receive Christ’s forgiveness first and foremost in order to be empowered to extend forgiveness to others – and ourselves.”

I believe in a form of self-forgiveness, but I am careful to define the terms. I think both arguments have tremendous merit and I think both are saying many of the same things. The first group, I believe, is trying to keep Christians from justifying sin – which is important. The second group wants to make sure that Christians understand that some people have trouble accepting God’s forgiveness.

Alright, so let me break this down with a very personal example. I fell from ministry. I committed adultery. My own personal repentance before God took a long time. It took a while before I was humbled before Him and knew that my heart was right and I had begun to walk a path of brokenness and obedience again.

The sin of adultery is a heavy one. I did it, it was my fault. The consequences are mine to bear for the rest of my life. I knew theologically and in my mind that I was forgiven. There was no doubt that I stood clean before God and that the sin of adultery had been cast as far as the east was from the west. Scripture promised it and it had been appropriated to my heart and life.

But for a long time, I struggled to accept God’s forgiveness. Why? Several reasons. First, my shame. I was still ashamed of what I had done. I carried it around with me like an albatross or a scarlet letter. Even though I knew the truth of forgiveness, I had not assented to it yet.

Secondly, maybe I doubted that God could really forgive me. Maybe it wasn’t doubt. Maybe it was wonder at His grace. Why would He forgive me? There were plenty of people who still hated what I did. I hated what I did. I still asked daily for His forgiveness even though I knew that sin had already been forgiven.

Thirdly, I think I didn’t truly understand grace. I felt like I had to do something to gain God’s favor. On one gracemercyhand, I was trying everything to get back the favor of people I had hurt. So it only seemed natural that I had to make God like me again. But that wasn’t the case. He had forgiven me. He loved me because of the sacrifice and work of Christ. But I hadn’t accepted that yet.

But one day it finally hit me. Call it whatever you like. I forgave myself. It was a moment where I said to myself, “God has forgiven me. Why am I continually bringing up this sin to Him if He’s forgiven it? I’m the only one who is holding on to it. I need to let it go.” In that moment, I forgave myself. Maybe that’s not the best word. If you want a theological term, I recognized the appropriation of God’s forgiveness and grace to my life.

Whatever happened, it was all God. My self-realization did nothing to save me. My “self-forgiveness” didn’t make more sin go away. Christ had already done the work. But thanks to the Holy Spirit, my eyes were opened to His continuing grace in my life.

So, self-forgiveness? I can live with the term if it’s used in the right way. MacArthur has the right approach. The other blogger is right too. No, we can’t excuse away our sins by ourselves. But if we don’t understand the grace that has been applied, we can be hindered from understanding the amazing love we have been shown.

Other helpful articles:

Christians Must Forgive Themselves” by Mike Ruffin

Can Christians ‘Forgive Themselves’?” by Michelle Van Loon

Forgiving Ourselves” by Charles Stanley

____________________________

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 Should We Think Of “The Other Woman”?

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, affair, church leadership, church members, forgiveness, other woman, pastors, reconciliation, relationships, repentance | Posted on 04-06-2014

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cheating6I recently wrote a blog giving advice to “the other woman.” You know, the woman caught in adultery. The woman the pastor has an affair with. The mistress. But what should we think of “the other woman”?

I’ve never liked any of those terms. I guess it’s because I was a pastor and married the woman I had an affair with. I could say, “We shouldn’t tag people with names according to their sin.” But I’d be a hypocrite since the name of my blog is “fallen pastor.” That, and Scripture  accordingly tags us according to the sins we are habitually committing – “murderer, liar, etc.”

When we use terms to describe people, we are speaking of their sin. When we start speaking of people, we begin to take the role of judge. When we speak of an “adulterer” to describe the person’s sin, we should always remember that there is hope for that person to repent and turn to Christ. When they do, they’re no longer an adulterer in God’s eyes, they are a forgiven person, cleansed by the righteousness of Christ.

With that said, what are we to think of “the other woman”?

Let me begin by telling you about what the relationship looks like before the pastor and the other woman get caught. He’s told her that he’s never met anyone like her. He’s told her that she listens to him and his wife doesn’t. He’s told her that he wants to leave his church and family for her. He has pledged his undying love for her. He may actually feel that way or he may just think he feels that way. Either way, they are in their own world of forbidden love.

Then, they get caught.

Next, one of two things usually happen if the pastor doesn’t leave his family for her. First, the pastor gets caught and tells the church leadership that it wasn’t a physical affair or as serious as it looks in order to save his family and ministry. He tells the church leaders everything they want to hear so he can save some face. In doing so, the leadership demand he stops seeing her.

When this happens, the leadership will tell him to sever all contact with her and often, the leaders will contact her (especially if she’s a staff or church member) and tell her to leave the church. They will tell her to never step foot in the church again. She might be asked to tell her story, but usually, she isn’t. Eventually, the story is passed around and the pastor’s version of events are told and the membership gets mad at her for “seducing” the pastor.

The second thing that happens is that the pastor falls and tells the church leadership and his wife everything. As in the first case, the leadership tells him to stop contacting her, they ask her to leave and the pastor repents and attempts to reconcile with his wife.

In just a few cases I’ve seen over the years, churches have reached out to the “other woman” to help her. But I’ve only seen that in about two otherwom4cases in 200.

Let’s be clear. Both the pastor and this woman have sinned. Both have committed adultery. Both are guilty of the sin. In just about every case I’ve seen, the pastor had a higher moral responsibility to stop the situation from going anywhere. But often, when the sin comes to the surface, it’s easier to place the blame on the “temptress.”

I think that this is a very unfair balance for several reasons.

First, there is a moral failure within every human heart that only Christ can address. When we open ourselves to the possibility of sin, stop actively seeking Christ, and cease fellowship with believers of like mind, our hearts begin to wander.

Second, when moral failure occurs within the church, all aspects need to be addressed. Attempting to restore (or ignore the sins of) a pastor while sending out another member of the faith is inconsistent with our call to restore any of those within our fellowship (Galatians 6:1). Of course, the call to restore should be consistent with the desire for repentance on the part of those who sin. But when a person is cast out without even the offer of help, counseling, or guidance, the restoration cannot even begin.

Third, when “the other woman” is cast out, despite her sin, she is in the midst of confusion and needs a tremendous amount of support. Yes, she has sinned greatly. Yes, she has dug her own hole. Yes, she has committed adultery with the pastor. But at the moment of the fallout, how should the community of faith respond to her?

What are we to think of “the other woman”?

One of the most painful things for the church is that this woman has taken away the pastor who has led them and loved them for a long time. It’s hard for many people to feel anything but angst for the person who by their actions, took away their spiritual leader and hurt the pastor’s wife. So, it’s understandable if they don’t want to restore such a person to Christ. It’s understandable if the church leadership just wants to put her away from their sight.

But this is what makes the community of faith different, isn’t it? I’ve spoken with a lot of “other women” who have said, “the pastor told me he loved me. He said he would leave his wife for me. He said we would be together forever. When we got caught, the leadership got so mean and told me to leave. People started gossiping and people who were once my friends are now acting terribly.”

upsetwomanI get what’s behind the church’s actions and feelings. Hurt. Anger. I get that the church membership and leaders are in a precocious position.

That’s when we have to ask what the Christ-like response would be. What are we to do when it’s hard to love? What are we to do when we are hurt by others in the worst possible way? How are we to respond when we are betrayed by someone we thought was a friend?

Christ knew the answer and lived it. He was betrayed several times and in horrible ways and forgave freely.

Now, our forgiveness might take longer to digest and actualize, but it’s something worthwhile to work toward. In the meantime, if we are part of a community of faith, we need to view “the other woman” as a fallen person, like we are. A person created in the image of God, like us. Someone worth fighting for, worth saving, worth restoration. A person who has fallen as far as they can and who needs the hand of a fellow believer.

And if we aren’t in a position at that moment to provide that hand, we have to be willing to find someone who can until we can open the door far enough to begin the process of forgiveness and restoration.

Next time: “How do we help the other woman?”

If you’re “the other woman” you might want to check out my wife’s blog and my book. Other articles:

Forgiving the Other Woman” by Rebeca Seitz, from Crosswalk.com

Questions About Affairs From The Other Woman by Anne Bercht” – these are letters a Christian seminar group gets from “other women.” It’s an insight to the problems they suffer and they’re just like the problems we hear about, showing that these women need help.

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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 For The Fallen Pastor?

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, affair, forgiveness, pastors, repentance | Posted on 19-05-2014

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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.

____________________________

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

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

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

When “I’m Sorry” Isn’t Enough

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in forgiveness, reconciliation, regret, relationships, repentance, sorrow | Posted on 14-05-2014

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(This post was originally part of a larger series. You can find the original post here.)

sorrywmHave you ever been in a situation where you’ve either directly or indirectly wronged someone and come to the point where you knew it was time to say, “I’m sorry“? And what do we do when “I’m sorry” isn’t enough?

It’s not easy to ask for forgiveness. It is the right thing to do and it takes humility and the right heart.

I deal with fallen pastors a lot. I’m a fallen pastor myself. Those who fall from ministry hurt a lot of people. Usually, our first apologies are insincere and riddled with defensiveness and self-justification. But eventually, we come around when we are humbled by God and do offer a sincere, “I’m sorry.”

But it’s not just fallen pastors who ask for forgiveness. All of us find ourselves in need of forgiveness from someone we know. Whether it was a harsh word we spoke, an action we took, something foolish we said and we didn’t mean to, an act that caused harm, or any number of things – we all will end up saying those two words at some point, and hopefully in the right way.

In this post, I’d like to focus on those of us who ask for forgiveness. Let’s look at a few things that might impact us before or during our act of asking someone to forgive us.

1. Our repentance

When we sin, the first place we should go and ask forgiveness is to God. God requires us to be holy before Him. We are to repent and walk in holiness. Am I saying we are to be perfect? Nope. I am saying that whatever stage we are in past our sin, we are willing to toss it aside and cast it before God, asking Him for help.

Repentance is turning away from the sin you committed. Let me give you am different example. Imagine a husband is an alcoholic. The problem is not drinking, but drinking to chronic excess. It has made things terrible at home and at work. The morning after he wakes up, he feels remorse and asks his wife for forgiveness, only to return to a drunken state the next day. Is that repentance? No, it’s remorse. Repentance would be casting his sin before God, turning to someone for help and doing what it took to get help. His wife would likely never believe his “I’m sorry” as long as he was constantly drinking.

Now, if he got help, support and guidance for a while and was doing well, then great. What if he fell off the proverbial wagon? I would hope his wife would be understanding for that moment and help him back on his feet and back to those who were helping him. Is there ever a time when enough is enough? When someone seems irresponsible and lacking in contriteness? Sure – people will be known by their fruits.

But it’s a difficult call as to when to give up on someone. But each of us are responsible for our own sin and the consequences they bear. We are responsible for what we do before God. It is great to be accountable to people and surround yourself with help if you need it. If you’re sorry for your actions, make sure you learn from them.

2. Why are we apologizing?

What is our motive for apologizing? There are a lot of bad reasons to apologize to someone. When we are young and sorrybartplaying with a friend or sibling and we take away their toy, we get in trouble. What does Mom say? “Tell them you’re sorry or you’re going to get a spanking!” Out of our mouth comes an apology motivated by fear. I guess we learned to say “I’m sorry” under duress.

Are we saying we’re sorry to save face? To keep a job? To justify our sin? Because that’s what we were taught? So we can continue on with our sin secretly? So others will think well of us? Just to calm the other person down?

Take time to search your heart, pray and read the Scriptures about forgiveness. Ask yourself, “why am I actually apologizing?”

3. Does this person understand why I’m apologizing? Do I fully understand why?

Sometimes when we go to someone to ask for forgiveness, they may not understand why we’re there. We may perceive we have wronged them, but they may not see it that way. In fact, they may not even have known we had said or done anything wrong to them. Even if that’s the case, explain it. It might be a good teaching opportunity. It might help you get to know them better. Best of all, it will open communication with them, especially since you thought you harmed them and you might not have in the first place.

The more dangerous thing is when we have sinned against someone, but we don’t fully understand how badly we have hurt them. Sometimes we do not understand the full implication or consequences of the sin we committed. At the same time, we may have done something to someone and didn’t realize we have done it. That’s even worse. The only way we can know is if they or someone else tells us.

Either way, don’t get angry if they show emotion at how badly you hurt them. Just listen. You’re there to apologize, not get angry at their reaction. If they are hurt, listen. Tell them you didn’t understand how badly you had hurt them. Saying “I’m sorry” isn’t just about the words, it’s about the healing of a relationship.

4. Above all else, be sincere by showing love and grace

The words, “I’m sorry” have probably come to sound as meaningless to most people as the words, “I love you.” Have you ever had one of your kids (or if you can remember being a kid) say to you “I’m sorry” in that dragged out tone that tells you they are anything but sorry?

sorrycoupThese two words ought to be spoken with the full import of the sin you committed against that person. It should be wrapped in the compassion knowing that you hurt them. It should be shrouded in the love and grace of Christ, hoping to restore a relationship that has been harmed. And it should always be rooted in the reminder of the forgiveness that Christ showed us.

Lastly, do it in person if at all possible. If you can’t, write a letter. Don’t cheapen an apology by texting it or sending a Facebook inbox message. If you are separated by miles and think a phone call will do, then try that. But face to face is the best policy.

Asking for forgiveness is a difficult thing. But when we judge our own motives, do it with the right heart, and express it with love and kindness, it can always be easier.

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.

Why Churches Aren’t Growing: Transparency & The Fallen Church

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in apology, bitterness, church, church face, church members, community, evangelism, fallenness, forgiveness, ministry, reconciliation, relationships, restoration | Posted on 12-05-2014

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altarSo if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. (Matthew 5:23-24 ESV)

I write a lot about reconciliation and forgiveness. There are several reasons for this.

First, I was horrible at it before I fell. I was an awful example to my family, my friends, and my congregation. I now know what it’s like to be the one who desperately wants to be reconciled with people I have harmed.

Secondly, one of my reasons for blogging is that I want to see churches and fallen pastors reconcile. Some churches actually handle the process the right way. They approach the pastor when they discover his indiscretion, they help he and his family get help as they depart and stay in contact with him.

However, this is a rarity. Most churches harbor bitterness, anger, and never get over the event. I do not believe this is the will of Christ. As the verse above states (and many others), those who have been sinned against should be the initiators of reconciliation and forgiveness. As I have stated before, this does not mean letting the minister back to a place of authority necessarily, but it does mean love and forgiveness.

There are a lot of verses about forgiveness. Some put the onus on the one who sinned. But the verse above and others put the responsibility on the one who was sinned against.

In the Southern Baptist Convention, there are literally hundreds of churches that have been hurt by fallen pastors. Some of these churches have not made amends or reconciled with these pastors.

Do not hear me placing full blame on these churches. If you’ve read my previous posts on the matter, you will know that is not how I feel. angry churchThese men fell and sinned. Sometimes, they get pompous after their fall and immediately try to return to ministry. They become recalcitrant and egotistical. I understand that.

However, there is a responsibility for churches to reconcile with repentant fallen pastors.

The majority of our Southern Baptist churches are not growing. There are many reasons for this. Could I suggest that one of the many reasons for it is that we have a lot of junk in our souls that needs to be cleansed?

I know of one local church whose pastor left forty years ago on bad terms. He didn’t even sin morally. It was just a bad situation where he got into an argument with a deacon and his family who “ran the church.” Ever since that time, the church has replaced the pastor every three years like clockwork. The family who was “in charge” is still there running the show.

When you ask an outsider what is going on at that church they always point back at the event that happened forty years ago. That’s a shame.

That makes me concerned about churches all across the nation. It makes me concerned about the church where I fell, and it is my fault. It makes me concerned about the churches where other pastors fell who haven’t taken the time to heal or reconcile with the pastor.

Two things are happening in churches like that. First, a dynamic of distrust can set in where congregations will always have a weary eye of the pastor. And secondly, if the people never forgive, there is the constant sin of unforgiveness in the midst that will hinder worship, growth, and spiritual awareness.

I had a funny thought about evangelism as well. Would churches affected by a fall be less likely to evangelize? Would they be less likely to invite people in knowing that they might have potential sins to deal with?

In our Southern Baptist churches, we do a superb job of putting on a “happy face” each Sunday. We sit up straight, sing when we’re cued to, and shake hands.

nogrowthIf you have kids though, you know that the ride to church is completely different. “Don’t hit your sister! Be quiet back there! You’d better stop complaining about going to church! Don’t act up during the sermon this week!

And each Sunday during Sunday School a topic will come up and we’ll shake our heads at the sinful topic brought up. Lust? “We shouldn’t do that, but you know everyone struggles once in a while.” Greed? “That’s a terrible thing, we should store up our treasures in heaven.” Anger? “Well, righteous anger is fine, but Jesus said love your neighbor.

What if we were transparent during Sunday School? Lust? “Yes, I fight it daily, friends. Each day I struggle. Will you please pray for me?” Greed? “I’ve run three credit cards past their limit and it’s out of control.” Anger? “Me and my wife are having problems. I need help from someone. Can anyone here help me?

What about during the week? What if we acted at church like we did at work? What if the pastor walked in on us at our most sinful moment? What if people saw us worried about our finances, fighting with our spouses, angry with our co-workers, cussing at the mechanic who messed up our car, kicking the cat, etc.?

If we acted at church like we did during the week – now that would be transparent. To have people see us as we really are – broken, sinful, wrecked, miserable, depressed. Because under those Baptist smiles are broken, sinful people who really need help.

When I was a pastor and would go to my bi-vocational job, people would cuss in front of me without knowing I was a pastor. When they found out, they’d say, “I’m sorry, I didn’t know you were a preacher.”

I’d say, “Why are you sorry to me? You didn’t do anything to me. Be yourself.”computer

Why don’t we act around our church friends like we do around our weekday friends? We’re not transparent.

But guess what? God sees right through us. And yet, He loves us still. He shows us grace and mercy.

But, if one of us sees a church member sin or a church leader fall, we judge them harshly. And quickly. And we gossip. No grace. No mercy. Only judgment.

Know why we’re in decline? Because most of us (and I’m including myself in this) don’t look a thing like Christ and His grace when it comes to dealing with one another, much less non-Christians.

We haven’t forgiven those who have sinned against us. We harbor anger, bitterness and rage when long ago we should have reached out and shown mercy as Christ has shown to us.

But strangely enough, each of us will pile into our cars on Sunday, looking our best, put on our Baptist smiles and push down our troubles.

It doesn’t have to be that way. If we were all transparent, (because we practiced being real in front of one another) if we left our Baptist smiles at the door, shared our hurts with one another, reconciled our pasts, then looked out into our community and realized that we’re just like everyone else, we might just be fueled for evangelism.

Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:1 ESV)

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.