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3 Things To Remember When Forgiving Someone

Posted by fallenpastor | Posted in forgiveness, reconciliation | Posted on 23-02-2015

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begPeople want and need to be forgiven. There are those of us walking around with huge burdens that need to be reconciled with groups of people or individuals.

We’ve tried to ask for forgiveness, asked for it, or are looking for a way to ask for it in a similar way in which we sinned against others.

But for whatever reason, there are those who withhold forgiveness. That explains why my post on “5 Reasons People Won’t Forgive You” is the most read post on my blog. If you are in need of forgiveness and can’t understand why someone won’t forgive you, go read that one.

Here, I want to address how to forgive someone who is asking you for forgiveness. There are a lot of possibilities wrapped up in this, so let’s look at as much as we can.

1. Do your best to take their apology at face value.

This is tough, but use your common sense. If someone borrowed your favorite shirt and got tomato sauce on it, asks for an apology, offers to have it dry cleaned, they’re probably being sincere.

But what about more serious sin? Like adultery? Or someone who lies to you all the time? That’s tough. I deal with this frequently when I’m counseling fallen pastors and their wives. The fallen pastor will cheat with someone and then in a week say to his wife, “I’m so sorry, please forgive me.” Well, guess what, dude? She’s not ready to forgive.

But he’ll make it worse. He will say things like, “The Bible commands you to forgive me. You’re not in the will of God.Don’t do that.

Both people in the transaction of forgiveness have a tremendous responsibility. The person who has sinned has to get their heart right. There has to be repentance (different than remorse or “feeling sorry I got caught“). But as the person who is doing the forgiving, that’s out of your control.


 “Most people who are repentant and asking for your forgiveness have been dwelling on this moment for a long time. They need your forgiveness like a thirsty dog needs a drink of water. They need to hear those three words, ‘I forgive you,’ desperately.”


So what do you do? A couple of things. You can understand that there are people who may feel remorse but don’t understand that their apology is not sincere. You can tell them, “I understand that you’re apologizing to me and I appreciate it. But we are known by our fruits in our life. Please allow me time to heal emotionally and I will allow time for God to work repentance in your life. He will bring both of us to a place where we can finish the transaction of forgiveness on His time. I’m not withholding forgiveness. But I can tell you that I am storing up grace for the day when I can forgive you wholly and completely.” Or something like that.

You can also be honest with the person and tell them that it is difficult for you to process forgiveness because of the hurt. That you are working on it, earnestly and prayerfully. Ask them for patience and encourage them to look up stories of people who have endured the same kind of pain you’re going through. Ask them for empathy.

2. It’s okay to draw boundaries.

If a person has hurt you in the same way before – repeatedly – realize that forgiveness can happen, but you may need to draw a boundary. 

I had a counselor tell me once that boundaries are good because they keep us from slamming the door completely. I was having trouble with a person who I believed I hated. The counselor said, “You know, God draws boundaries. He drew boundaries for the Israelites at Sinai. Some could go to the foot of the mountain. Others could go on the mountain. Moses could go to the top. Jesus had followers who could listen to his teachings. He had twelve disciples who heard more. Then he had an inner three who heard exclusive things.

I said, “Yes, and?boundary

He said, “We need to be careful about shutting anyone out of our lives completely. If you cut this person out of your life completely, you will shut out any chance for the restoration of God in their life or a miracle of reconciliation in your life. So draw a boundary. Tell them that they can be part of your life. But in your life, restrict them to certain areas. Don’t tell them everything. Don’t allow them access to all areas of your heart.

He was right. Never shut the door on someone – always leave it open just a little and allow God to do what He will do.

3. When forgiving, always be gracious.

Sometimes, someone will come up to you and ask for forgiveness for something you didn’t even know they did. Be gracious. Make sure they understand they have your full forgiveness.

Other times, you will know why they are apologizing. You’re ready to forgive and reconcile. (Trust me, it will feel great when you’re done). Guess what? Be gracious. Make sure they understand they have your full forgiveness.

What I’m saying is – most people who are repentant and asking for your forgiveness have been dwelling on this moment for a long time. They need your forgiveness like a thirsty dog needs a drink of water. They need to hear those three words, “I forgive you,” desperately. So make it clear.

Realize that at some point, we will all be standing in the need of someone’s forgiveness. In fact, we have already been there. Christ forgave us a debt we could not possibly repay. That’s why Paul tells us in Colossians 3:13 to forgive as Christ has forgiven us.

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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.

 

Can You Believe That Sinner?

Posted by fallenpastor | Posted in adultery, church, culture, forgiveness, sin | Posted on 11-02-2015

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I’ve been writing for a long time. My senior year of high school, I got to help write  a play. I can see the following monologue being acted out by one person for a church drama. But I can also see it happening every week in churches as a reaction to those who sin, unfortunately. These are the whispers that sinners hear – deservedly so – but when do they stop? And when do our hearts change? What should our hearts be speaking toward those who sin? Scripture references are linked:

“Can you believe that sinner? Do you know what he did? He cheated on his wife. Unbelievable. He’s a member of this church.  And he was a Sunday School teacher.

whispering“Oh, when did he do it? About eight months ago. Filthy person. How dare he show up back in our church like this. Seriously. He’s got two kids. They’re not even ten yet. What was he thinking?

“I don’t know how he could even show himself in public. He’s lucky he even has a job still. I can hardly stand looking at him.

“How did he teach Sunday School all those Sundays and carry on with that other woman? What audacity! That has to be blasphemy.

“Do what? Oh, he’s been meeting with the pastor. I have no idea why the pastor would even talk to him. I’m sure he’s blaming his wife or a problem with pornography or a troubled childhood. But to me, there’s no excuse for that kind of sin.

“His wife? Here’s a stunner. She’s trying to work things out with him. whispering2I have no idea why. She should have dumped his sorry rear end right there on the spot when she found those text messages. She could have gone straight to a lawyer and owned everything that little bitty man has.

“I don’t know. I mean I’m not being judgmental. I just don’t like the way he looks around the sanctuary. I don’t like the way he talks or speaks to anyone. He’s not fooling me with that false humility.

I’m telling you, once a cheater, always a cheater.

“Those poor little children of his. Maybe one day they’ll learn what an unholy person their father is. How can he even sing songs of worship?

I just don’t know how someone like that can live with themselves.

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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.

 

Guest Blog: What Will It Take To Forgive?

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

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I’d like to welcome Mark and Lisa DeCourcey today for a guest blog. Mark writes today with the heart of a fallen pastor who understands forgiveness and the need for restoration and reconciliation. Please check out their information and their blog info below.

A little over a year ago, I committed adultery. God has done an amazing work of restoration in my family and in my marriage. My wife, Lisa, has been living out forgiveness like I have never seen before. I am blessed and amazed and grateful that ours is a forgiving God.

forgivemeWhile I celebrate the forgiveness of God and Lisa and my family, I realize that there are others who have not forgiven me. Some of these people don’t surprise me, while others do. In a desire to better understand forgiveness, I ponder the question, “Why haven’t you forgiven me?” I don’t wonder out of anger or entitlement. I want to learn. Because you see, at the top of the list people who have struggled to forgive me is me. I can just as easily ask the same question—“What will it take for me to forgive myself?”

As I ponder forgiveness, I realize that there are some barriers I face in forgiving myself that may apply to forgiving others:

I will forgive you when you have shown repentance.

“Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him.” Luke 17:3

Repentance is absolutely necessary for forgiveness. If he repents, forgive him. What I have learned of repentance over this last year is that it is a lifestyle change. It is a condition of the heart made possible by the power of the Holy Spirit in me. I must continually strive to live out repentance. It begins with the words, “I repent,” but it is proven out over time. At what point is my heart repentant enough? Is evidence of repentance sufficient or do I need proof of repentance?

 I will forgive you when _______ does.

I have hurt many with my sin. As I survey the damage, it becomes evident that I have hurt people at different levels and to different degrees. I am inclined to think, “If that person can forgive me, I can forgive me. If this person can’t forgive me, I could never forgive me.” I am overwhelmed by the gracious forgiveness my wife has extended to me. If she could not forgive me, I am not sure I could ever forgive myself. I am grateful that I don’t have to process through that. I must, however, consider that hard reality.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9

Jesus has forgiven me. How could I elevate anyone’s forgiveness, even my wife’s, to a higher status? If I think, “Jesus has deemed me worthy of forgiveness but Lisa hasn’t, therefore I am not worthy,” that puts a great deal of pressure on my wife and demotes Jesus from His position as Righteous Judge.

I will forgive you when the punishment has fit the crime.

I tend to be a justice seeker. There is a level of punishment I expect for my sin and until I have reached it, I will not forgive. It is as though I believe God requires a degree of pain from me before He will forgive. In the days immediately after the discovery of my affair, I laid on the floor and begged God to allow me to feel the full weight of my sin. He said to me (not audibly, but emphatically) “No. You don’t get to feel the full weight of your sin because my Son did. I will not minimize what He did for you on the cross just so you can feel like you are contributing to your forgiveness.”

“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” 1 Peter 2:24

The fitting punishment for sin in general, and adultery specifically, is death. In my case, the penalty for my sin was paid about 2,000 years before the crime. If I believe that Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for my sin and to make forgiveness available to me, then I cannot wait for some added level of punishment.

“He said, ‘It is finished…’” John 19:30

I will forgive you when I feel like it.

I have spent a year waiting to wake up in the morning and feel forgiven. At the same time, I have wanted to feel like forgiving myself. I am waiting for some warm, happy feeling to spur my actions. In the words of every pop-psychologist of our day, “I will follow my heart.” The truth is, I need to lead my heart.

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” Jeremiah 17:9

Forgiveness will not simply spring forth from my heart. I have heard Forgiveness: Who's Saying What?, Part 1it preached and I have preached it myself that love is not a feeling that washes over you; rather it is a choice, a commitment, an action. Forgiveness is born out of love and as such carries that same DNA. Forgiveness is a choice, a commitment to do the hard work that is coming. I don’t feel like forgiving myself and that is good. If I forgive because I feel like it, perhaps I have bought into the deceit of my heart. That forgiveness will be as lasting as that warm, fuzzy feeling of “love.”

I will forgive you out of obedience.

Jesus tells the parable of the unforgiving servant to put me in my place. In spite of my countless sin, my acts of direct rebellion against God Almighty, He has forgiven me. Who am I to think for a moment that I should hold my brother or myself to a higher standard than the Master.

“‘And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” Matthew 18:33-35

The Master simply says—no, demands—that as we have been forgiven, we forgive. Forgiving is an opportunity for pure obedience. When the Master says to forgive and I am inclined to forgive, that is agreement. When the Master says to forgive and I don’t want to forgive but I do, that is obedience. God’s command is “Forgive.” When I don’t feel like, when I don’t want to, when I’m not ready, when it doesn’t make sense—this is when I have the opportunity to honor the Master with obedience.

 I will forgive you in faith.

I believe my struggle to forgive myself boils down to this: do I believe my sins are forgiven? Do I believe that Jesus’ death on the cross is sufficient? Do I believe that the crucifixion is the culmination of God’s prefect to plan to atone for my sin and restore me to a right relationship with Him? It seems my inability to forgive is connected closely to my inability to be forgiven. This locks me tightly in a catch-22. My faith must be firmly anchored in the God who worked it out, all by Himself, with nothing added by me, before I was born.

“…but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

Are you struggling to forgive yourself? Are you struggling to forgive someone else? I have a long way to go, but here is what has become clear to me: if forgiveness depends more on me and less on God at work in me, I will never truly forgive nor will I truly be forgiven. Like so many of the deep truths of being a Christ-follower, if I need to fully understand it, I will not experience the full blessing of forgiveness.

For more on Mark and Lisa DeCourcey’s story and God’s amazing work of restoration, check out their blog at www.decourcey.net.

____________________________

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 Blueprint for Pastoral Reconciliation, Pt. 2

Posted by fallenpastor | Posted in adultery, churches, forgiveness, reconciliation, repentance | Posted on 10-12-2014

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A couple of weekends ago, I saw something transformative. It’s something I hope begins to happen in churches across the country whose pastor has previously fallen to adultery or any other sin. You can catch up on the details by reading my last blog – but understand that what I and the other people present at Capshaw Church in Huntsville, Alabama witnessed was a moment of phenomenal brandon02grace.

Brandon Watkins committed adultery over two years ago when he was serving as the worship leader. In those two years, he has been on the path of restoration. He is still on that path and has some way to go. But the pastor, Zach Terry, who is also a long-time friend of Brandon’s, has been involved in his restoration.

Zach felt it was time for Brandon to come back to Capshaw Baptist and be able to apologize and feel reconciliation with those he harmed. Brandon had called me and invited me to go along. I had hoped for a kind, gracious process. What happened was a Christ-centered moment where forgiveness took center stage.

Brandon met with his former worship team on Saturday night and answered a lot of questions. When a pastor falls, people have a lot of unresolved issues. There are a lot of open wounds. It was a time of healing for those involved. On Sunday morning, Zach talked to the congregation about grace. He talked about how he had told the church two years ago they would need to start “storing up grace” for when Brandon returned desiring forgiveness. He told the congregation that now was the time to release that grace.

Zach interviewed Brandon on stage and I can’t do it justice. Here’s the audio link. What I really can’t describe is Zach’s ability to share grace and describe the love of Christ during this process. I can’t convey Brandon’s brokenness and heart to reconcile. I really can’t tell you how it felt to hear Brandon sing when the service was over.

After the service, people came up to Brandon and I got to hear them say gracious things to him and have a chance to have their hearts brandon01healed to one another.

I cannot tell you enough that this is what our churches need across this country. I have been doing this ministry for five years and have heard fallen pastors who have been restored back to Christ say, “I just want to have a chance to tell my former church how sorry I am. I want to be able to stand before them and tell them that.

However, we are guarded. We feel like we are opening an old wound if we do that. But it’s reconciliation. It is part of being the people of God who welcome back the prodigal. Again, I’m not asking churches to bring a pastor back to preach or be in the ministry. I’m asking them to use what Capshaw did as a blueprint to have a time of healing.

Don’t think you can do it? In the next blog post, I have an interview with Zach Terry, pastor of Capshaw Baptist Church. He has some amazing insights on the process that occurred and how it changed him and his church. Soon, I’ll be posting an interview with Brandon about how it effected him.

Churches, pastors, leaders – I cannot tell you enough how the circle of forgiveness needs to be closed by this act of reconciliation. Please consider it. And contact me with any questions.

__________________

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 a Pastor Falls, pt. 2: Confronting the Pastor

Posted by fallenpastor | Posted in adultery, church leadership, church members, churches, community, conflict, forgiveness, humillity, judgmental, pastors, preachers, reconciliation, repentance | Posted on 23-10-2014

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This series is about how church leadership can effectively handle the fall of their pastor when he has been accused of sexual Three businessmen having meeting in officeimmorality. It is a horrible situation for any church to find themselves in. It is seemingly a no-win situation for anyone. But it is a situation that more and more churches find themselves in. I am a fallen pastor and over the past four years, I have counseled many fallen ministers and hurt churches and I hope to help others find a way through this process that creates healing for all involved. When a pastor falls, what is the best way to confront him?

Please take time to read part one here. Today, we will focus on meeting with the minister after all the facts have been gathered, the pastor’s response, and how to minister to the fallen pastor’s spouse.

Meeting With the Minister

There are two situations you could be facing when you meet with him. You’ll either have evidence of his adultery or you won’t. Either way, what should you do? I suggest you have a straightforward meeting. It’s not the time for any type of mind games. Always remember that God is in control of every situation. If there’s sin involved, God is always at work and will be the one to take care of it.

Before the pastor arrives, make sure the church leadership is on the same page about what you’re going to discuss. If there is any disagreement whatsoever about how to handle the meeting, take care of it before the pastor arrives. The church leadership needs to be of one mind and heart before the meeting takes place.

Agree that this is not an angry confrontation. This is a meeting among brothers in Christ. There are two things to always remember. First, how would you want to be treated if you were the one being confronted about a possible sin in your life? Second, always remember Galatians 6:1: “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.

upsetIt’s best if just one leader does most of the talking so you can stay on point. You’ll probably know which of you is best suited for the job. If you don’t think any of you are able to do it, ask an outside mediator to help. A pastor from another church you trust, an associational director, or a strong Christian from the community.

Then, it’s time for the meeting. If you don’t have any physical evidence, share with him what you do have then let him speak. If you have evidence, let it be addressed.

The Pastor’s Reaction

I’ve been blogging here for four years. I’ve been talking to fallen pastors for the same amount of time. There are all kinds of pastors out there. When a pastor falls, it’s always a shock. Sometimes a pastor falls and the church can’t believe such a wonderful man of God could do such a thing, but he’s been committing adultery behind his wife and the church’s back for ten years. I’ve talked to churches whose pastor had kids with other women years ago and no one knew about it.

What I’m saying is that each situation is different. And when you sit down to talk to your pastor about suspected sexual immorality, he may be completely innocent. Then again, the man you are talking to may have been putting on a front for years that you have been fooled by. I got away with it for a few months. Some get away with it for years. In some ways, all of us know how to put up a front and keep people from knowing who we really are.

When you sit down and confront a pastor about his sin, he may break down and confess everything. He may have been wanting to get caught. But some will flat out deny everything. Even if you have the most compelling evidence in the world, they may lie and try to talk their way out of it. They may say, “Well, I was involved emotionally with someone.” Or they might say, “Whoever gave you that information is crazy. How long have you known me?”

That’s why this calls for discernment on the part of church leadership. That’s why you have to have your information together. That’s why when you talk to the minister about this, you have to gauge his reaction carefully. You should be able to tell pretty quickly whether he is involved in sin. It should be apparent to everyone in the room. And whatever response he gives, it needs to be handled with love, grace and compassion.

The Proper Response

I’m going to write more later about how church leadership should handle the pastor when sexual immorality is confirmed, but I defensivewant to share this quote from Dr. Hershael York. He’s the preaching professor at Southern Seminary and runs an excellent site at pastorwell.com. I interviewed him for my book and asked him how a church should respond to a pastor when they find out about his sin. When should they help him recover and get him counseling and when should they just let him go? Here’s what he said:

“A church’s posture has to be guided by whether or not there is repentance, because your posture has to be one thing if a person is living in defiance and embracing their sin. Then you have to confront. 1 Corinthians 5 kicks in and Paul describes as turning them over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh. There’s nothing pretty about that. But if a person is broken and repentant over their sin, even if they want to be and they’re not there yet, but they want to be.

“They may say, ‘It’s hard for me to leave this 23 year old girl who thinks I hung the moon and go back to a wife I struggled with for the past 20 years, but I want to do that because it honors the Lord.’ Well, if a guy says that, then by all means, you’ve got to walk that walk with him, or see that someone does. Because sometimes the unity of the church matters too and the leaders in the church have to take care of the church but what they cannot do is just abandon the one in sin and say, ‘Well, you’re on your own.’”

The Pastor’s Wife

upsetwomanNot to be forgotten about in all of this is the pastor’s wife and his family. When a pastor is caught in adultery, his wife is absolutely devastated. Most often, the pastor cheats on her with a staff member, church support staff, or a family friend. Church leadership needs to be able to be ready to surround the pastor’s spouse with support.

I have seen wives who decide to stay with their husbands and they are shown scorn from people in the church for doing so. I have also seen the opposite – wives who leave their husbands and are shown contempt for doing so. It is a traumatic event for the spouse and what she needs is not to be surrounded by people telling her “you need to divorce that creep” or “you know, the Bible says divorce is a sin.” Advice given may be correct, but what the spouse needs for such an awful moment are people who are willing to simply comfort her, cry with her, and allow her to be herself.

Helpful article on helping the pastor’s wife during a crisis:

Helping Your Pastor’s Wife After a Church Crisis” by Paraleko

Next time, I want to focus on the church’s public response to the pastor’s adultery.

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 Fallen Pastors Are Like Snakes

Posted by fallenpastor | Posted in adultery, forgiveness, pastors, reconciliation, restoration | Posted on 03-09-2014

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snakeyThis blog post title may be a bit misleading since this ministry is dedicated to helping fallen pastors and those hurt by a fall.

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

The wasp chasing me around my house was 100 times this big. Really.

The wasp chasing me around my house was 100 times this big. Really.

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.

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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.

Restoring the Adulterous Plumber and Pastor

Posted by fallenpastor | 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

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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.

Does God Continue To Punish Us After He Forgives Us?

Posted by fallenpastor | 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

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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.

Can We Just Forgive Someone “In Our Heart?”

Posted by fallenpastor | 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 fallenpastor | 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.

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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.