Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, forgiveness, pastors, reconciliation, restoration | Posted on 03-09-2014
But fallen pastors are a lot like snakes. Why? Because you either like them or you don’t. A friend of mine who ministers to the fallen wrote this on Facebook the other day: “Keep us in prayer. As you know, the fallen are not well liked. We are doing all we can to help get them back up.”
He’s right. Many people have a dim view of those who fall from ministry. Now, let me illustrate with something very bizarre that happened to me yesterday.
It started when my wife Allison and I were traveling to my work. She said, “Did you not see that huge snake you just ran over?”
No, I didn’t. I have a soft spot in my heart for snakes. I like snakes. I’ll pick up the nonpoisonous ones and pet them. I’m pretty good (so far) at telling the nonpoisonous ones from the poisonous ones. When she said I had run over one, my heart sank. I asked her to describe it to me. What she described to be was a copperhead. Lethal. Deadly. An ominous snake. But in its own habitat, it’s fine. I didn’t feel good about running it over.
Later that night, as we often do, we sat on our back porch. Allison screamed. A large spider had made its home on our porch. It was huge. I love spiders. It was harmless. It had just made its way there to feed on the insects that gathered on our porch near our security light. Its abdomen was the size of a silver dollar. It was beautiful. It was building a web that was intricate and lovely. At one point, it got into a fight with an insect and fell four feet to the deck. I helped it back to its web with the aid of a fly swatter. It never knew I had done it. But I admired the spider.
I had left the porch lights on so the spider could feed, but also for another reason. My daughter, Katie, is working on a project to collect
insects for her biology class. We get a lot of tobacco moths and other interesting insects so I was hoping to get some critters for her.
About midnight, I went outside to see what I could gather. I didn’t see anything, so I came inside. But something followed me in. It buzzed like a horsefly. I chased it around the kitchen for a few minutes. Then I realized it wasn’t a horsefly. It was a yellow jacket.
A yellow jacket. It was pretty big; about an inch and a half long. I chased it around but I had no fear of it (There’s only one thing in nature I’m afraid of – whales. And on some WBFFA Saturday, maybe I’ll explain that.) I took me about five minutes, but I finally trapped it. When I did, it made me a little sad. I wanted my daughter to have it for her collection, but I also wanted to set it free. But a school science report demanded it be pinned to a board (FYI, Katie wasn’t happy about killing insects either.)
Now, most people can’t stand spiders, snakes, and stinging things. I’m drawn to them. I’m fascinated with them.
While Allison and I were on the back porch and she was backing away from the spider and I was inching toward it, I had an idea. I said, “You know, maybe if it weren’t for my love for creatures like this, I wouldn’t have a ministry.”
She said, “That’s a really good point.”
I am a fallen pastor. And I’m invested in the lives of fallen pastors. Men, women, fallen pastors and ministers who the world has shunned. Those whom the church see as dangerous. Those whom people see as flying around the house and ready to sting everyone in their path. Those whom people see as setting up webs of destruction. Those whom everyone sees as ready to strike, being serpents, getting ready to devour the next church member in their path.
“Do you want to be defined by one sinful action in your life? Would Christ define you by a single sinful action in your life?”
But that’s just not so. Most fallen ministers have made a one time mistake. They have been caught up in a path of failure. They have messed up royally and need the help and attention and restoration of the church. They have wandered far from their calling and need a Galatians 6:1 restoration response from the community of faith. What they don’t need are people looking at them as if they are snakes, spiders, or yellow jackets, ready to do more damage. They need the people of the community of faith seeing them as believers who made a one time sinful mistake and want to repent of it.
You see, wasps, spiders, and snakes have it in their nature to bite, sting, on a regular basis. That’s not so for the majority of hurt pastors. They have been plagued by circumstances that have been weighing on them for a long time. Did they sin? Absolutely. And that sin is a consequence they have to face. They have to lay claim to it. They have to repent of it. (There are regular offenders out there – pastors who continually commit adultery over and over again. I’m not speaking of these people. I’m talking about the ones who have sinned and need help and restoration.)
But that doesn’t mean that they have become the wasp, the spider, or the snake. The fallen pastor does not need to be defined by one sinful action in their life.
Let me ask you, Christian. Do you want to be defined by one sinful action in your life? Would Christ define you by a single sinful action in your life? I don’t think so. That’s not the way of our Master. Maybe the fallen minister won’t be able to pastor again. That’s fine. But we are not the judge of one man. We are not allowed to define a person by one single action they make. What if God judged us by the standard we judged others?
If He did, we would all be in serious trouble.
Is that what we want for each other? No. Christ calls us to be something different. He calls us to reconcile. To forgive. To love. To see beyond faults. To set boundaries, yet love and help one another be restored back to Christ.
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.