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A Simple Prayer for the Fallen Pastor

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in brokenness, encouragement, fallenness, forgiveness, holiness, pastors, prayer | Posted on 16-04-2014

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I hear from fallen pastors on a weekly basis. This ministry is a joy because there’s not much out there like it. When I fell phone4four years ago, I felt useless. Now God has transformed my brokenness and allowed me to be useful once again.

When I talk to them on the phone, it’s almost always the same. I can hear the desperation. They sound like I did right after I got caught in my sin. They don’t know me. They don’t know if they can trust me. Then I start talking to them. We trade stories. I tell them there is hope. That Christ does indeed love them.

That yes, they know they have sinned. But there is forgiveness. Will the journey be long as they repent and move forward? Yes. Will it be difficult? Yes.

They always have so many questions. “What do I do about my wife? She’s so angry. She should be. I’ve never seen her this mad.” “What about my children?” “What about the church?” “What am I supposed to do about work?” “I’ve disappointed my parents and my family, what do I do?” “What was I thinking?” “It’s just so hopeless. What am I supposed to think?

The questions are all to familiar. They bring back to me that day when my sin came to light. The day when my sin was exposed. Everyone knew. I deserved the consequences. And all I wanted to do was hide and let the rocks pummel me to death. And as the days and weeks went on it got worse and worse. I wanted to destroy myself and I hated myself.

hopeSo when I get a fallen pastor to talk to me, I know I can offer him hope. The hope that Christ really does love him. He loves us in spite of our sin. I can offer him the knowledge that I love him. Even though he doesn’t know me and I really don’t know him, I just love him because he needs a friend and because we share a common story. I can give him the hope that God takes care of those who repent and despite their sin, they choose to live the next day in a walk toward brokenness and obedience.

There’s always the question, “What do I do about all this stuff going on around me? How can I fix my marriage, my life, my family . . . everything?

I like to tell them to stop worrying about the things they can’t control at the moment. They’ve sinned. There are going to be consequences for the rest of their life. Those are things that they will have to deal with on a daily basis and it’s going to be difficult for a while. I tell them I have a network of people who can help them with all kinds of things. I tell them they’re going to need to start building a group of men who will be strong with them and help restore them back to Christ.

When I share this prayer, it is after I know they’ve asked God for forgiveness and I know they’ve taken the first few simple steps toward repentance. I tell them that asking for forgiveness from God for their adultery isn’t necessary. He’s forgotten it. In fact, if we bring it up to Him, it’s a one way conversation. We’re the ones introducing into the conversation. He’s not.

But I tell them, “What you need right now is the most simple prayer you’ve ever prayed. You could go to God right now and say, ‘God, help my marriage, help my family, help my church, help my finances, help my relationships.’ And that would be okay. He understands that prayer.

But in those first few weeks, I like to remember what Jesus said during the sermon on the mount. He told his followers that our Heavenly Father already knows what we need. Now, that’s obviously not a command to stop praying.

Instead, I like to encourage these men to make their constant prayer a simple one. God needs one thing from them right now. Theyprayer4 are at a crisis moment. And their ministry, life, and marriage fell apart for a simple reason – they lost fellowship with Christ. So I introduce them to a most simple prayer:

Lord, you know the circumstances in my life. What I would like you to do is show me the man you want me to become in all of this. Break my heart, humble me, and turn me into a man who is pleasing to you.

I believe that if we allow God to change who we are – to fix what was broken in the first place – then the rest will fall into place.

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.

Your Church Already Has A Plan To Deal With Adultery

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, bitterness, burnout, church, church leadership, church members, churches, fallenness, forgiveness, hurt, pastors, prevention, reconciliation, repentance, restoration, sin | Posted on 16-04-2014

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planYou may not be aware of this, but your church has a plan in place to deal with a church crisis. It does. On this site, I primarily deal with the crisis of a pastor leaving when he’s caught in adultery, so I’m going to deal with that.

Churches today are finding themselves in this situation more and more. The statistic gets thrown around that 1,500 pastors a month leave the ministry due to conflict, burnout or moral failure. Think that statistic is shocking? I have a lot more on this blog and more in my book.

But your church leadership has a plan ready to go whether they realize it or not.

Think of it like this. This morning, you woke up, got out of bed and brushed your teeth (I hope). You did a bunch of other things in order to face the world. You ate breakfast (maybe), got dressed, took a shower, put on some clothes, and got in your vehicle.

Somewhere in your day, you had to adapt to something. Let’s say unexpectedly, on your way to work, a squirrel ran out in front of your car. (What is it with me and squirrels on this blog?) You had a split second decision to make. Do you swerve and possibly hit that mailbox? Do you slam on the brakes and spill your coffee? Do you keep going as the squirrel darts frantically in several directions as it decides which way to go?

You see, suddenly, you realize you have a plan in place, embedded in your mind on how to deal with squirrels that run out in squirrel5front of your car. It’s instinctual. Most everything we do in life is that way. We just roll along, reacting. When things come at us, we react. What are those reactions based on? Lots of things. They’re based on our worldview, how we’ve seen other people deal with things before, the expectations of others, and how we’ve dealt with them in the past.

What happens when we are in a church and we find out that the pastor has been committing adultery?

From experience, I can tell you that the endgame goes one of four ways.

The pastor is often fired immediately and kicked to the curb. He’s gone. Not much discussion to be had because he’s sinned and he needs to go. Those are the consequences of his actions.

The other thing I’ve seen is that the church leadership finds out and decides not to tell the congregation. They put the pastor on “sabbatical leave“. This means he and his wife go to counseling for a few months and come back and he returns to the pulpit. Honestly, this doesn’t do much to fix the man’s relationship with Christ or his wife.

pulpit2The next way I’ve seen it play out is that the pastor confesses his sin and is allowed to stay on as pastor. The congregation sees what they see is true repentance and doesn’t see a need for him to go. This keeps a man who is very troubled in the pulpit without considering that he might need to step down for a while to get serious help.

The final way is for the church to recognize he needs help. He cannot remain the pastor, but he is also a member of that local body of believers. They follow the wisdom of Galatians 6:1 and desire to restore him to Christ. He’s given a severance package that includes intensive counseling which hopefully involves going to a place that can help restore him to Christ. The church, made up of godly leadership does all they can do with a pastor who desires repentance from this sin he has committed.

These are things I’ve been covering in my past few blog posts.

What I’m saying is that we are all wired to react. We all have a plan in our minds of how we would handle this situation. The problem is that most of us don’t have the right and biblical response wired in our minds. Instead, our first instinct is one of immense hurt.

What do we often do when people hurt us? We respond by acting out to hurt them like they’ve hurt us. It’s a very human response. But as hard as it may be, we are to be better than that. If the pastor has any hope of restoration and has any signs whatsoever of repentance, we are to chase him down and get him help. He’s one of us. He is a brother in Christ who needs us. He has fallen far and needs hope.

If we don’t get our hurt in check, it quickly turns into anger. Do you see how the plan that we innately have in place can quickly get out of hand? The passions of our hearts can quickly move away from the biblical response we should be having.

It’s not easy, I know that. Being a strong biblical leader in the midst of horrible news like that requires grace, mercy and patience. It takes every ounce of Christ like love. It takes discernment to know if the pastor is being truly repentant. He may rebuff every effort you make at asking him to repent. If that’s the case, the saddest thing is letting him go his own way.

But if he has any sliver of hope that he wants to repent, we are to treat him like the prodigal son. We are to love person pewhim as a wayward brother in Christ and get him the help he needs. Are we to welcome him right back into the pulpit? No. But we are to get him and his family immediate help so that this man will not be destroyed.

There are organizations within denominations that offer help for men who have fallen and want to be restored to Christ. I’m working on finding a way to get a list of them together so that people can find them in an more efficient manner.

If you are one of those organizations and want to be listed here or make yourselves known, please contact me so churches and fallen pastors can find you.

Let’s start looking at our plans before our pastors fall. Better yet, lets prevent these falls before they happen. I can come speak anywhere to talk about the dangers that pastors face. If not me, I know others who would be happy to talk about the pitfalls that pastors face on a daily basis that can weaken them.

It’s time to face these issues before they become a calamity in our local churches. Let’s start working together to make this problem a thing of the past. Let’s take that number of 1,500 a month and get it as close to zero as possible. But it will take local churches, church leaders, associational directors, local bishops, denominational leaders, and the people in the pews to make it happen.

I get an email each day from a fallen pastor, a church that needs help, a woman who is having an affair with a pastor, or a pastor’s wife who has just discovered her husband has been unfaithful. I minister to each of these people regularly and lovingly. It’s what I do. It’s heartbreaking, but I love that God has called me to it.

But I would find so much joy to be able to find a way to prevent it all from happening in the first place.

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.

If you are a church leader and still have questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

When the Pastor Falls 4: What’s Next For the Church?

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in advice, anger, church, church leadership, church members, churches, forgiveness, gossip, leadership, ministry, pastors, reconciliation, relationships, restoration, struggles | Posted on 14-04-2014

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If you’ve been reading this series in order, then you’ve arrived at this point where the church leadership has done the zs.worth.0050best they can after they’ve learned that the pastor committed adultery. (Part 1, part 2, part 3) Hopefully, the pastor and his family are receiving prayerful support from the church and are being attended to by a ministry/counseling team that specializes in helping them.

But now here you are, a church leadership team without a pastor. Many churches are equipped with staff who can fill in for the interim, but many are not. In the past four years, I’ve seen how this process should not be done. So, I’d like to give some practical advice on how to proceed for the next few months with some do’s and don’ts.

1. Do acknowledge the hurt and sin that has occurred. Don’t dwell on it negatively from positions of power.

You’re going to have hurt people. In fact, leadership is going to be hurting for a while. Make sure your church has a way to cope with all the different feelings that are going on – hurt, anger, disappointment. And there will be a lot of questions as well. Questions like, “How could he have done this?” and “Why don’t you tell us all the details?

It really is like a grief process. It’s like losing someone unexpectedly. Some members will leave the church. Do your best to check on them. Some may not want to talk. Some may want to talk too much about it. Whatever the case, provide appropriate and biblical ways for people to address their feelings.

facebook3One thing that might need to be addressed (if it gets out of hand) is the use of social media. Remind the church that they are messengers of grace to the community. It is good for them to share forgiveness and okay to express hurt, but gossip is never a good way to heal.

Leadership can lead by example. It may be difficult not to preach on topics that pinpoint the sins of the fallen pastor. It may be difficult not to say angry things in public that do nothing more than make the situation worse. Remember that many in the church will take their cues from you. Leaders are to be Christ-like in their reactions. Do they ignore sin? No. But they also understand that once sin has been committed and handed off to God, it is in His hands.

When the pastor is gone, it’s time to focus on those left behind. Begin the healing process.

2. Don’t allow the lack of a pastor put a stop to true ministry. Do choose to be active in what God is doing around you.

A lot of people, for better or worse, identify the pastor as the head of the church. He’s not. Christ is. But the pastor is the face of the church. He stands in the pulpit each week, he’s the one who carries out much of the visitation, he does the funerals, he shakes people’s hands with a smile, and his name is on the church sign. It’s good to remember the legacy he left. He did do a lot of good things in the name of God. It may take a long time to remember those good things in the wake of his sin – but he did them.

What I’m trying to say is that a lot of people are going to feel a little lost. That doesn’t mean that a member of leadership needs to step in and try to act like the pastor. In fact, I’d call for the opposite. When I wrote my book, I found that the reason a lot of pastors get so weak in the first place is that they spend too much time chasing after the “stuff of ministry” and not chasing after Christ.

Get the leadership together and take some time to look at what is going on in the church. Look around and see what God is doing. Sometimes we are so focused on what we are trying to do and what ministries we are trying to grow that we completely miss out on where God is at work. Sometimes God is working on a few people who are on fire for Him. Losing a leader doesn’t mean the end, sometimes it gives the community of faith a chance to reassess their love for one another and their role in the community.

3. Don’t be afraid to be without a pastor for a while. Do make sure your fellowship is ready for the next pastor God has for you.

I’ve seen churches whose pastor fell put a pulpit committee together the next week. I don’t really think that’s the wisest thing to do. This is a crude analogy, but I think you’ll understand. Have you ever been through a breakup? Relationships are tough, aren’t they? And if you tried started dating someone right away, it just didn’t work. Why? Because you were always comparing that person to the person you were just with. Because you were thinking about them.

Can I tell you a little secret that every pastor who has ever been interviewed knows? Most pastor search committees interviewask really, really bad questions. In fact, many pastor search committees always tell you what the last guy did wrong by the questions they ask you. I got into this conversation with some pastor friends of mine once. Here are some of the questions they got asked by search committees: “Do you allow women to pray?” “Do you think it’s important for the youth to sit up front?” “You do think it’s important to go visit the shut-ins, right?” “Your wife doesn’t argue much, does she?

Seriously.

Your church needs time to heal. And that’s a good thing. There are a lot of denominations that offer interim ministers that are trained to help after a pastor falls. There are men like me who are able to come in even for a few months and do training with churches to talk with them and help them with some of the issues they are going through. Make sure the church and the leadership has a healthy heart before you ask a new pastor to come in. Because it won’t be fair to him if you’re suspicious of him for sins the last pastor was guilty of.

Overall, work toward holiness and healthiness as a church body. Is it easy? Not always. Focus on the members who want to make things better. Chase after the members who are confused and frustrated. Don’t give up on anyone. Be ready to partner up stronger Christians with weaker ones. Disciple one another. Love one another. Christ gave us the church for days such as these – so that we might live abundantly and share all things together.

forgivemeOne final thought. And tuck this waaaaaaaay back in your mind. There may come a day a long time in the future when your pastor has gone through his restoration process. And a few of your members want to contact him and say, “I forgive you.” Let them. He will desperately need to hear those words. He really will. And if you’re even braver, five years or so down the road, have the church leadership contact him and ask him how he is. And offer forgiveness to him if he’s repentant. You have no idea what that could mean to him.

I and other fallen pastors still live in a time where we are repentant and living lives in the best way we know how and we would love to reconcile (or hear “I forgive you”) with those we hurt all those years ago. It may never happen on this earth or in this lifetime. But you never know.

Other helpful resources for church leaders and churches:

How can a church survive/recover when a pastor leaves?” from Gotquestions.org

Is Your Church Without a Pastor?” by Dan Reiland, Global Christian Center

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.

If you are a church leader and still have questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Pastors in Trouble 2b: The Community of Faith

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in burdens, Christ, church, church face, church leadership, church members, churches, community, conflict, culture, depression, forgiveness, isolation, leadership, ministry, pastoral care, pastoring, relationships | Posted on 28-02-2014

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Bryan Grant Real Estate PhotographyI’ve been writing about why so many pastors are in trouble. Pastors are leaving the ministry at an alarming rate. Some are committing adultery, some are just quitting, some leave over conflict, and shocking there seems to be a rise in pastor suicide. What’s going on?

This post is the second part of the discussion about one of the issues that needs to be addressed – our churches. Make sure you read the first part before you start here.

What does church look like today? A club. We go to churches that are bigger and have great programs for our kids (that is not a knock on large churches with dynamic youth programs, by the way). A place where we can sit in the back and not be noticed. We don’t want them to know who we really are.

Where did we go wrong? When did we stop being a community of faith and just another club to join?

I’m afraid one of the problems has something to do with the question I asked in the beginning of this series – “Are you loving people the way Christ intended for you to?

If we are, then when people sin in the community of faith, we will act out Galatians 6:1, conflictBrethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.

Or, if we are having a conflict or disagreement with another member of the community of faith, we won’t let it ride or have a grudge with them: Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift. Matthew 5:23-24

Guess how all of this affects a minister? Not good. One of the leading causes of the downfall of a pastor is isolation. Did you know that 70% of pastors do not have someone they consider a close friend? Pastors won’t find that statistic shocking at all.

Knowing that, it won’t surprise you that the majority of ministers will never, ever get close to a church member or a church leader. I’ll give you three reasons.

First, the pastor has probably been burned before when he got close to a church member. He told a deacon or elder something that was bothering him or a secret. And that person either betrayed his confidence or used that secret against the pastor.

This awesome Razorback is metaphorically showing us the distance most pastors put between themselves and church members.

This awesome Razorback is metaphorically showing us the distance most pastors put between themselves and church members.

Secondly, the pastor has been taught in seminary or by a mentor to never get close to church members. I was taught in seminary not to confide in church members or get too close. Why? We were told by a professor that if you did, that person might use your secrets or feelings against you.

Third, some pastors don’t want to make friends because they know that their job won’t keep them there long enough to make lasting relationships. (Dr. York had a great blog related to this topic and you should check it out.)

Of course, these reasons are good reasons, but they’re mostly based on mistrust. How can a pastor have a good relationship with his church if he never makes friends there? But I can see the other side. Why would he make friendships if he’s been burned in the past?

Here’s what I’ll say about all of it. We need to reform our churches so that we become communities of faith again. Where we all care about one another – like family. Pastors need to be able to trust their members enough to be friends with them. Yeah, it might not work out. Jesus was betrayed by one of his own. But he still loved.

Local churches need to be fervent about forgiveness. When someone falls in the church, they are your family. If they sin, go after them. Restore them to Christ. Guess what? The pastor is part of your community of faith too. If he does something awful, he needs the love of rescueChrist displayed to him as well. I’m not talking about restoration to the pulpit – I’m talking about restoration to Christ.

When we start acting out the compassion and love of Christ to our fellow believers, we will begin to see changes in ourselves and our fellow Christians. When we begin to bear the emotional weight of one another, all of our burdens become lighter. And when we share our problems, victories, pain, depression, hurt, and joy together – that’s when we truly become a community of faith.

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

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

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

Pastors in Trouble 2a: The Community of Faith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

____________________________

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.

A Nauseating Book You’ll Want To Read?

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, affair, book, forgiveness, holiness, pastors | Posted on 17-02-2014

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michnaus

This poor guy looks sick and LOST.

I’ve been blessed to be able to minister to all kinds of people for the past four years. After I fell from ministry, I felt pretty worthless. I always knew that God was gracious and could take His people and work things together for good, but I had no idea what He could do with the shattered pieces I had made of my own life.

Here I am, glory be to God, with a ministry that helps fallen pastors and those who are effected by the fall. In the middle of it, I had a book published by Civitas Press – “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World.” Again, God was the reason for everything.

It’s a book for anyone – people who want to learn how to forgive, fallen pastors, churches, leaders, etc. I’ve had a lot of great feedback about how people have been helped by it and how it made them understand things better. But I’ve also heard something over the past few years from a few people that bothered me at first.

A few said, “I found it sickening. I couldn’t get past the first part. You know, where you’re sharing the stories of other pastors who committed adultery. Sin is so sickening.”

I tell the stories of ten other pastors who besides myself, fell from the ministry. I’ve said it once on this blog and I’ll say it again – their/our sin was inexcusable. There were warning signs and things that led up to the adultery, but there was no excuse. The sin and consequences were all ours to bear.

The book has four sections. In the first section, I outline the problem. In the second, I tell the story that keeps repeating itself in fpour society of the fallen pastor. In the third section, I talk about the four most common issues that surround the pastor before he falls and that can serve as warning signs. Finally, in the fourth section, I ask, “How can this be prevented and how can the fallen pastor be restored?

I remember talking to one pastor who read the book. He was very angry with me. He told me how sickening the stories were, how it seemed like I was justifying sin, and how I never took credit for my sin. I was pretty patient with him for a while before I started reading specific sections to him out of the book where I made it clear I wasn’t trying to justify anything. In fact, chapter 18 is pretty damning on the fallen pastor as the consequences of his sin play out.

Those things aside, it is a true statement that sin is nauseating. It is most nauseating to God. As the holiest being in the universe, He is farthest away from it and cannot gaze upon it. The closer we are to Him, the more awful and disgusting sin will be to us. That is why we strive for sanctification and personal holiness. When we don’t, and when we distance ourselves from God, we cannot smell the stench of sin when we wallow around in it for a while.

I’m thankful for the men who shared their stories. Each of us were pastors who sat in a place where we were to rightly divide the word of truth, not just for a congregation, but for ourselves. But each of us sinned. We fell. We proved that we were no mightier than those who came before us and others will fall after us. Each time a pastor falls, the name of King David is invoked, not for the kingdom he built, or the bravery he showed, but for his adultery with Bathsheba and murder of Uriah.

Our stories are published in a book that won’t ever see the top 100 of the New York Times Bestseller List, but they are there. They are common, too common. Like the adultery of David, the disobedience of Moses, the drunkenness of Noah, or any of the sins of God’s people, we stand amongst them in shame. The good we did will never reach the heights of our heroes of old, but our shame will be compared in the same breath.

restorThankfully, there is hope for those of us whose sin is nauseating. It is true that God is totally “other” than sin and separate, but that did not keep Him from sending His Son into this world to save those who are sinners. Who amongst us is a sinner? All of us.

In a moment upon the cross of sin-bearing, in a moment of torture that was most definitely nauseating to the local observer, all that disgusting sin got washed away. Not because we deserved it, but because He graciously desired it.

Yes, there are consequences to sin. Earthly consequences. Church discipline is a reality for leaders, but it should always start with the spirit of Galatians 6:1, “Brothers, restore….” The Spirit of Christ should lead all of us to love as Christ loved the adulterous woman who was accused. His focus was on her, not the angry mob.

And no, those who sin will not always listen to us at first. Their sin may nauseate us. It may sicken us to the core. But what I’ve learned since my fall is that God poured out all His wrath over my sin upon His Son so that He might look upon me again and love me as His child. Behind all that nauseating sin is a person God is reaching out to and has a future for.

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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.

When The Pastor Gets Caught

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, anger, bitterness, church, church leadership, church members, culture, embarrassment, forgiveness, hurt, ministry, repentance, restoration | Posted on 07-02-2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reconciling With A Fallen Pastor, Part 3: Why Early Contact Is EssentialThe pastor, reaction #2: “I’m done. I’m getting all these angry calls. I’m leaving anyway. I don’t want to have anything to do with church or any of this. My marriage has been awful and I’m leaving. No one can stop me.

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

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

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

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

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

Then we come to Galatians 6:1 where we are told to restore people. Not to the pulpit – but to Reconciling With A Fallen Pastor, Part 2: Stages Of The FallChrist. We are to restore people when they fall. Know what we are to do when someone sins? Help them out of the pit they’ve dug for themselves.

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

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

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

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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.

Questions About Fallen Pastors?

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, book, church leadership, church members, churches, forgiveness, pastoring, pastors, sin | Posted on 24-01-2014

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Fallen_Pastor_Cover_1200wI get a lot of new readers so a lot of people may not know my story. I’m not gonna drag it out because I’ve got a point to make. Four years ago, after being in the pastorate for ten years, I committed adultery. My marriage fell apart and my life was a mess. God put it back together.

A few months after, God started working on my heart, I started blogging and (long story short) I ended up here with a ministry to other men who have fallen, their churches, other pastors, wives of ministers and others affected by ministry failure.

At the time of my fall, there were very few resources for pastors written by fallen pastors. I’ve been able to network and help a lot of people in the past four years and thanks to Civitas Press, the ability to engage the church culture and write a book about it became a reality two years ago.

I get asked a lot of questions. I get asked many of the same questions over and over. But I answer them because I know people need help. A lot of those questions are answered in the book I wrote. The story of my fall and the falls of eleven other men are in there. The things that can make pastors weak are in there. How to prevent ministry failure is also in there.

Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World, also available in Kindle format, is a book that examines the fall of the pastor by looking at the stories of pastors who have sinned, looking for common threads. It also examines the church culture in which pastors fall, asking critical questions of it. (If you don’t have a Kindle but have access to an iPad, iPhone, Android, tablet or anything that can download apps, you can read eBooks – just download the Kindle app for free and start reading. Easy stuff.)

Am I trying to sell books? Sure. But that’s not why I wrote the thing. I wrote it so there would be a unique resource. Who is this book for? You won’t believe me when I say “pastorquit” so let me tell you “almost everyone“:

  • For fallen pastors who don’t think there’s anyone else out there who understand what they’re going through
  • For churches, members, and leaders who want to understand how difficult pastoral ministry is and how they can help their pastor
  • For ministry spouses so they can discuss openly the issues that lead to ministry failure that have specifically to do with marriage
  • For directors of missions or bishops who want to know how to help prevent ministry failure, help those pastors who fall, or deal with churches in crisis
  • For those churches whose pastors have fallen
  • For anyone who has had a pastor fall and asked, “Why did he do it?”
  • For seminary students or those who feel the call to ministry – because someone can tell you, “One of the golden rules is to never be alone with a person of the opposite sex in ministry,” but until you know the real reasons for ministry failure, you won’t be prepared
  • For the families of fallen pastors who are still hurting over the sins their loved one made – to give them some kind of insight
  • Pastor, for you. Because you’re facing some of the issues I talk about in the book right now: Isolation, marriage problems, etc. And if they aren’t controlled, you are at risk.

I pray our pastors can be forgiven after they fall and that people of faith will pursue them in compassion as Christ pursues us. I also hope that churches and pastors will work together to understand the culture in which we live to prevent further ministry failure.

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

Pastoral Adultery Doesn’t Happen Overnight

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, church, church members, compassion, fallenness, forgiveness, gossip, ministry, pastoring, pastors, preachers, prevention | Posted on 20-01-2014

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pastorad“Our pastor committed adultery! How did this happen?”

If I’ve heard this once since I fell from ministry, I’ve heard it a thousand times. When a pastor falls, it is a shocking thing to the church and community. People’s emotions range from shock then to anger in a matter of days. “How could he?”

Let’s deal with the reality first. Here are a few statistics that I quoted in my book, “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World“:

  • 80% of pastors and 84% of their spouses are discouraged and dealing with depression
  • More than 40% of pastors and 47% of their spouses report they are suffering from burnout, frantic schedules and unrealistic expectations
  • Approximately 1,500 pastors leave their assignments each month due to moral failure, spiritual burnout, or contention within their local congregations
  • 89% of pastors stated they considered leaving the ministry at one time

Now, back to the pastor who cheated . . .

After the gossip wagon kicks into full gear and everyone knows who the pastor cheated with, the people begin to make assumptions. “Oh, I always thought I saw him paying her more attention. He always did hug her a little too long.” Those assumptions may be right or wrong, but it’s part of the church’s way of dealing with the betrayal.

Unfortunately, most church members don’t ever see what goes on behind the scenes with their pastor. A pastor is placed in charge of a church to care for his flock, to preach the Word, visit the sick and new members. However, those are not the only duties he has to deal with.

His duties also include dealing with conflict between members, conflict at church business meetings, listening to complaints (suggestions) from people who know how to do things better, deacon’s meetings, staff meetings, funerals, weddings, and other tasks that few hear about on Sunday.

It’s almost like going to a stage play. When you go to church, you sit in a pew and watch a playperformance. You expect the choir to sing, a special music, and the pastor to preach. He looks nice in his suit or khakis (depending on his dress style) and everything looks great to the congregation and visitors.

At a stage play, though, there are a ton of things going on behind the scenes. There are stage hands rearranging for the next act, people giving cues to the actors, people working lights, the director barking directions, costume changes, and a myriad of other tasks.

It’s the same at church. Parishioners see a polished product on stage, but there is a lot that goes into a Sunday service – especially in the life of a pastor. A week filled with prayer, visitation, Bible study, phone calls, dealing with conflict, etc.

Back to the original question: “Our pastor committed adultery! How did this happen?”

It didn’t happen overnight. The process that led to his fall had been building for years. Let me give you an example. About every time I talk to a fallen pastor, I ask him the following questions. “Were you having severe conflict in your church for a while?” “Were you having severe marriage issues?” “Had you had a tragedy in your life in the past two years?” “Did you feel that you were put up on an unrealistic pedestal?” “Did you feel isolated?”

Every time, the person answers yes to almost every question. These things have been going on for years. Like a pastor friend of mine said recently who pastors a very large church, “Ministry Fallen_Pastor_Cover_1200wis tough. It’s tough on me and it’s tough on my family.”

How does it happen? Because the pastor allows himself to become isolated. Because he isn’t getting help from his church. Because the ministry has a terrible effect on many marriages. Again, it’s all part of a pattern that leads up to almost every fall. In my book, I have stories of many men who fall and the stories are remarkably similar.

The pastor doesn’t wake up one day and say, “This stinks, I think I want out. I’m going to have an affair.”

But it’s close. What I’ve discovered is that after years of depression, anxiety and growing tired of all the conflict, the pastor just wants to be out of the ministry. Some pastors turn to alcohol, gambling, laziness, embezzling, or pornography. These men are most often forgiven and allowed back into the ministry at some point. These men don’t really want out of the ministry, I think.

Like most ministers, they pour their hearts out to people every day and are looking (wrongly) to something to fulfill them. They selfishly look to something to make them happy, to make them happy. I think that set of men are looking for help, but think if they get caught they can get the help they need.

The minister who commits adultery is a man who just wants out. He’s done. He’s tired of it all. Everything has come crashing down and he has had enough. Enough of his disturbed marriage, enough of the negative conflicts, enough of being isolated, enough of it all. He’s not looking for someone, but he inadvertently finds someone who meets the needs he hasn’t been getting.

This process takes years.

What’s my point? That intervention right before a man commits adultery is almost useless. It’scliff like trying to grab for a man right after he’s jumped off the cliff.

Would you like to help your pastor? Get involved in his life. Make sure he’s being mentored. Make sure he and his wife have time set alone just for them. Send them on retreats for spiritual renewal. Make sure church leadership responds correctly to conflict and doesn’t place the load on the pastor.

Approach him honestly about these things. He may not open up to you, but there are people in the church he will open up to. Don’t let him become one of the 1,500 pastors a month who leave the ministry due to church conflict, moral failure, or burnout.

Scripture tells us to all be on guard. Let us all rally around our shepherd before it’s too late.

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

“So You’re The Adulterer!”

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, fallenness, forgiveness, grace | Posted on 10-01-2014

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SIX FEET UNDER: Michael C. Hall, Peter Krause. CR: John P. Johnson/HBOI love talking to people who work in funeral homes. They have some of the most amazing personalities. They deal with people and care for them at the worst point in their lives on a daily basis. Yet, most of them have the best attitude when you get to know them.

A couple of years ago, I was riding in the pallbearer car back to the funeral home with a woman who was one of the managers. We had talked a bit and she said, “What do you do?”

Now, for me, that is a loaded question. And it can turn very quickly into a shocking answer for a lot of people. As I’ve written before, the reaction can often times be very interesting.

We had already talked enough that she knew I worked in sports medicine. What this 50-something woman who knew people really wanted to know was, “What was I doing as a pallbearer at this funeral?”

I said, “I used to pastor this church that most of these people went to.

She said, half-joking, “What did they do? Kick you out?

I had to smile because she probably wouldn’t have asked it like that if she had known. Or maybe she would have. She had a great sense of humor and, like most funeral directors, shot pretty straight.

What made the trip more interesting was that a former church member of mine was sitting in shockedthe back seat. He had left the church a few years before I fell and I knew it had been hard on him to talk to me about it. On several occasions, I had seen him, shaken his hand, and that was all he really had wanted to do. But I wasn’t going to miss a chance to talk to this woman or answer her question.

So I did.

I committed adultery,” I said.

Her mouth dropped wide open, “Ooooooohhhh!” I thought for a second the car was going off the road as she adjusted her sunglasses. Then she looked at me and said, smiling, “I’ve heard about you.

I said, “Most of it is probably true, I’m sure.” Her statement would have bothered me two years ago, but thanks to a lot of helpful people, time and forgiveness, I just smile.

She said, “You wrote a book! Didn’t you?

Yes ma’am, I did. Did you read it?” I asked.

No, I didn’t think I needed to, I’m not a pastor,” she said.

Well, it’s not just for pastors,” I told her. “It’s for everyone. It’s about learning to forgive, what we expect of our pastors, how we can restore people, how we’re all sinners…

She stopped me and continued my thought, “You know, you’re just a sinner like me. You’re no different. We all mess up. Why is it people find it so hard to forgive pastors?

That’s a great question,” I said. “We are all sinners. I disappointed a lot of people who expected more from me. And they should have.

But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t forgive,” she said with a slight frown.

No, it doesn’t,” I said. “It just takes some longer than others. Hurt can last a long time. I haven’t always been perfect and no one else is either. The good news is that I’m running a ministry now online for fallen pastors like me. To help them, give them encouragement and hope. I also am there to help other pastors prevent what I went through.

We talked about other stuff on the way back to the funeral home. For instance, I found out it was easier to make creme brûlée than I thought. I still haven’t been able to master it though. Darnit.

jeremiah179She let me out at my car and said, “Thanks for sharing that. You’re a good person.”

I knew what she meant. And I appreciated her saying so. But I’m not good. None of us are. None of our heroes are good. They are all stained with sin and mere moments from a fall. When they do fall, I pray we all have courage to forgive.

The best part of the trip came when we arrived at the funeral home. The man who used to go to church where I preached and I got out of the car and we waved me down as I walked to my car.

Ray!

I turned around to see him there. This man I had apologized to yet had not been able to have a meaningful conversation with since I had fallen. He was much older than me, but wiser, and spoke softly. He had his bible in his hand and I approached him. I honestly had no idea what he wanted to talk about.

He said, “I was listening to what you told her. And all I wanted to say was I’m glad you’re doing what you’re doing. It’s a good thing.” He wished me well and walked off.

Sometimes, it’s hard for people who have been hurt to ever say anything at all. And that’s probably all I’ll ever hear him say. What I really want from people is, “Ray, we forgive you, just like God has.” But it doesn’t always work like that. And that’s fine.

I’ll take the little moments when they come.

_____________________

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