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When a Pastor Falls, pt. 1: What Can Leaders Do?

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, affair, church, church leadership, church members, churches, conflict, fallenness, gossip, leadership, ministry, pastoring, pastors, preachers, reconciliation | Posted on 02-10-2014

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I wanted to be able to write something to help churches and leaders have a guide for when their pastor falls. The crisisproblem is that no two situations are quite alike. And yet, all situations are very similar. For the next few posts, I want to give some help that comes from my experience and from the things I’ve read in the past four years.

When a pastor falls, it’s not an easy experience for anyone. The advice I’m giving is general advice for when a church learns that their pastor has fallen morally. He might have committed adultery with another person, he might have been engaged in what he calls an “emotional affair“, or he might have been engaged in a long time addiction to pornography. This post is designed to help the leaders in the church when the find out their pastor has fallen.

I want to start off with a few basic reminders before I start throwing out advice.

1. Remember that each and every decision needs to be bathed in prayer. People will be quick to act, easy to anger, and will be very hurt. Prayer has a way of focusing us in the right way.

2. Remember that decisions based on God’s Word, no matter how difficult they might be, will always be the right ones. A pastor who has committed adultery has forfeited his right to shepherd the flock for a time (that topic to be covered later).

3. But always remember that decisions based on God’s Word are always to be made with grace, love, and humility. If the pastor is removed, it should always be done with the grace of Galatians 6:1.

4. Never forget that there are many people involved in this matter. One man’s sin may be at the forefront, but there are many others who need care and need to see the church act with truth, love, and grace.

5. Keep it confidential until a decision is made. If your church leadership is gathering facts and talking to the pastor, gossip should not be part of anyone’s life. When the facts come in, your pastor may be cleared. If one of the church leaders goes home and tells his spouse all the details of an important meeting and word gets out and severely twisted, the damage may be too great.

6. Finally, never be afraid to ask for outside help. If your church leadership team isn’t sure about what to do, or you feel like you can’t seem to agree, find a mediator. Ask an expert for help. There are a lot of people I know and there are people provided by your denomination or association who can offer wisdom. Never feel like you’re alone or that you’re the first ones to go through this.

truefalseSo let’s get to some first steps in this matter. I don’t want to assume anything – like I said, people tend to find out differently and people tend to react differently.

Get The Facts Straight

Finding out that the pastor has committed some sort of adultery is not easy. The information can come in many different ways:

  • A rumor that has spread in the community
  • A church member might approach the church leadership with a printed out series of emails or Facebook messages that prove the pastor’s infidelity
  • An anonymous letter is sent to the pastor and church leadership from a woman claiming to be his mistress
  • The pastor’s wife might approach a deacon regarding her suspicions about the minister and a church member or staff member
  • A staff member might tell church leadership of an ongoing affair
  • At the end of a service, a church member/staff member might confess that the pastor has been cheating with them
  • The rumor might begin on a social media site (Facebook, Twitter) and get picked up by local media

There are many ways that church leadership can get informed of an issue the minister might be having. I’ve heard of or witnessed all of the scenarios listed above. The easiest thing to do is panic. The knee-jerk reaction is to fire the pastor.

The best thing to do is for the church leadership is to respond in a calm and biblical manner. Most church by-laws require some sort of due process for the minister. It is important to have a meeting with him. Before that meeting takes place, it is a good idea to do fact gathering from people who are knowledgeable about the situation.

The church leadership should take seriously any first-hand evidence that is presented to them. Always be wise with any evidence, discernmentunderstanding the people presenting it. Such a time requires discernment. If a person asks for a meeting with the church leadership and confesses to an affair with the pastor, should their claim be taken seriously? Absolutely. They have a right to be heard. Their claim should not be rejected outright. If they have evidence of communication, it is even more helpful. A problem can arise when someone rejects their claim because this person, “Isn’t the pastor. They aren’t trustworthy.”

Every person who has a justifiable claim has a right to be heard. Again, the claim may later be rejected as false or partially false, but all evidence needs to be weighed before rejecting any outright.

Gossip, innuendo, and rumor is not typically helpful. Anonymous letters are not the greatest. However, I have known many women who have written such letters and were truthful in what they wrote. Of course, the fact that they did not sign them led many to reject the claim. The church leadership should be careful in approaching such communication.

The pastor’s side of the story should be heard as well. He needs to understand the facts that have been gathered or given to the church leadership. One of the worst things that can happen in a meeting is for things to get personal. Sticking to the facts is very important.  I’ll talk more about meeting with the pastor later. But understand that it is important to always gather as much information as possible.

Don’t Read Into The Situation

If you do hear gossip, receive a letter, or have someone approach your leadership about your pastor’s fidelity, treat it as a serious matter.

One of the worst things we can do when an accusation is made (and no fault has been found in the pastor yet) is to think, “You know he has been acting weird lately,” or “He has always hugged the women in the church too long,” or “I never did feel comfortable around him.” You may feel those statements are true, but those statements may have nothing to do with the matter on the table now.

As church leaders, examine the facts as you have them, pray over them and prepare your heart for what decisions may lie ahead. Next time, we will examine meeting with the pastor, his reaction, and his spouse.

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.

Bob Coy Family Divided

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in bob coy, current events, fallenness, gossip, social media | Posted on 30-07-2014

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bobcoyBob Coy Family Divided – It’s a search term that keeps poking it’s head up on my blog search results. Every day, people find my blog searching for those words. I wrote a blog post about Bob Coy. The best and most balanced blog post I’ve seen is from The Last Hiker’s blog that has over 400 comments. In those comments, many of them are judgmental and angry. The Last Hiker’s blog post is excellent in dealing with the issues surrounding fallen pastor Bob Coy, who was a pastor in Fort Lauderdale and admitted to adultery.

Bob Coy was a national figure and committed adultery. He sinned greatly. He lied for a long time. He hurt many people. It shows that the sin of adultery when committed by a pastor has horrible effects on family, a congregation, a community, and a nation. These are things I have been writing about for five years and shared in my book. There are no excuses for what he did.

I am concerned that for the past two months people have been showing up to my blog searching for “Bob Coy family divided.” Each time I see that, I grimace a little. I understand the pain that people are going through. I hurt people when I committed adultery. But I also think that it’s time for people across this country to understand that there is a responsible Christian response to Bob Coy’s fall. I don’t know what’s going on with Bob Coy and his family. It’s none of my business. And it’s really no one else’s business. It is a matter for his family, church leadership, and God.

One of the problems is that a lot of people want information. That’s normal. They want answers for why he did what he did. I get that. In our age of information, we believe we are entitled to information. But Christians, in this case, we don’t need it. We don’t. Bob Coy and his family need some time. And we need to give it to them. I’ve listed some questions I’ve seen online regarding the Bob Coy situation and responses to them:

Bob Coy sinned. And his sin put us in a position to ask these questions.” Yeah, in a way it did. But for a Christian, there comes a moment where we have to ask, “how much information is enough?” When do questions become gossip? When do our questions become the stuff of reality television and drama? When do we start following the church discipline guidelines of Matthew 18 and Galatians 6 and allow restoration to take place? When do we stop poking around with this man and his family’s life and start minding our own business?

But trust me, right now, what he does not need are people who claim the mantle of Christ acting like paparazzi.”

He was a pastor. A man in the public eye. The people of his church have a right to know.” Here’s a tough one. Do we trust the men and women we have appointed as church leaders to handle the situation, or do we as church members keep poking around for information until we have stripped the bones bare until we are satisfied? What is the purpose of church leadership if not for a time like this? Yes, Bob Coy has sinned greatly. And this is a time for church leadership to step in and take care of the issues. And church members should trust them to help Coy and his family the best they can.

He was a national media figure. He put himself out there for everyone to see. So it’s everyone’s business.” That sounds like the reasoning of people who don’t understand Scripture. When it all comes down to it, this is a matter for Bob Coy, his wife, his family and his God. Is he repentant? I don’t know. Is his family in turmoil? Who knows? But asking questions via Google is not going to help. Prying into his life is not going to help resolve a spiritual situation.

“But the family shared information!” Even if the family shares a limited amount of information, that doesn’t give any Christian the right to pore over it like it’s the National Enquirer. Information shared by a “family friend” should really be considered shaky, at best. If the family wants to report on their progress, let them. And let it be.

Honestly, if you are a Christian and you want to help, pray. I have counseled hundreds of fallen pastors over the past five years. Do you know what makes the biggest difference in the heart of a fallen pastor? A work of God so that he will repent. Not a bunch  of people digging into his personal life to see if there is a rift in his family. Sure, we live in an age where we can poke around and see the particulars of the Kardashian family and their latest beach pictures. But that is not and should not be the norm for Christians who are fighting a spiritual battle for restoration back to Christ.

Please stop searching for gossip, family rumors, church rumors, and the status of Bob Coy on the internet if you are a Christian. It’s shameful. If you are a member of his church, wait on the church leadership. If you aren’t a member of his church, pray for him and his church. Then start making things better for your own pastor and your church.

We are living in a culture that is saturated with reality television. A culture that has to know the intimate details of every individual. We have succumbed to it because we post our own lives on Facebook and other social media each day. Maybe what Bob Coy and his family need are distance, time, healing and prayers from the people of God.

calvary

Understand that when pastors fall, they receive attention from the community regardless of the size. Whether they are a pastor of a megachurch or a small church, they will get a lot of community gossip. The attention is a consequence of their sin and it is deserved. What matters most is the heart of the fallen pastor. Will he repent? Will he choose the path of restoration? Sometimes the pastor will resist restoration and walk in sin for a while. Sometimes he will repent immediately. But either way, the church, according to Galatians 6:1 has a duty to be there to restore him back to Christ.

We are not to dig into the details of his sin and berate him publicly. Our job is to be in prayer for his recovery. Again, he did something that was sinful. But where is Christ in all of this? Where we want Him to be. Waiting on the sinner to repent, and loving him. Just like He would do with any of us.

If he doesn’t repent, then one day he may need help if he does return. His family needs help. But trust me, right now, what he does not need are people who claim the mantle of Christ acting like paparazzi. Those are the people he needs in earnest, forthright prayer for him and his family.

Other helpful articles:

Pastor Bob Coy, The Church, Adultery, Consequences and Grace,” The Last Hiker

What I Should Have Told Bob Coy 29 Years Ago,” by Nate Larkin on Covenant Eyes

__________________

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 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.

When a Pastor Falls, 1: Help For Leaders

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, affair, church, church leadership, church members, churches, conflict, fallenness, gossip, leadership, ministry, pastoring, pastors, preachers, reconciliation | Posted on 08-04-2014

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I wanted to be able to write something to help churches and leaders have a guide for when their pastor falls. The crisisproblem is that no two situations are quite alike. And yet, all situations are very similar. For the next few posts, I want to give some help that comes from my experience and from the things I’ve read in the past four years.

When a pastor falls, it’s not an easy experience for anyone. The advice I’m giving is general advice for when a church learns that their pastor has fallen morally. He might have committed adultery with another person, he might have been engaged in what he calls an “emotional affair“, or he might have been engaged in a long time addiction to pornography. This post is designed to help the leaders in the church when the find out their pastor has fallen.

I want to start off with a few basic reminders before I start throwing out advice.

1. Remember that each and every decision needs to be bathed in prayer. People will be quick to act, easy to anger, and will be very hurt. Prayer has a way of focusing us in the right way.

2. Remember that decisions based on God’s Word, no matter how difficult they might be, will always be the right ones. A pastor who has committed adultery has forfeited his right to shepherd the flock for a time (that topic to be covered later).

3. But always remember that decisions based on God’s Word are always to be made with grace, love, and humility. If the pastor is removed, it should always be done with the grace of Galatians 6:1.

4. Never forget that there are many people involved in this matter. One man’s sin may be at the forefront, but there are many others who need care and need to see the church act with truth, love, and grace.

5. Keep it confidential until a decision is made. If your church leadership is gathering facts and talking to the pastor, gossip should not be part of anyone’s life. When the facts come in, your pastor may be cleared. If one of the church leaders goes home and tells his spouse all the details of an important meeting and word gets out and severely twisted, the damage may be too great.

6. Finally, never be afraid to ask for outside help. If your church leadership team isn’t sure about what to do, or you feel like you can’t seem to agree, find a mediator. Ask an expert for help. There are a lot of people I know and there are people provided by your denomination or association who can offer wisdom. Never feel like you’re alone or that you’re the first ones to go through this.

truefalseSo let’s get to some first steps in this matter. I don’t want to assume anything – like I said, people tend to find out differently and people tend to react differently.

Get The Facts Straight

Finding out that the pastor has committed some sort of adultery is not easy. The information can come in many different ways:

  • A rumor that has spread in the community
  • A church member might approach the church leadership with a printed out series of emails or Facebook messages that prove the pastor’s infidelity
  • An anonymous letter is sent to the pastor and church leadership from a woman claiming to be his mistress
  • The pastor’s wife might approach a deacon regarding her suspicions about the minister and a church member or staff member
  • A staff member might tell church leadership of an ongoing affair
  • At the end of a service, a church member/staff member might confess that the pastor has been cheating with them
  • The rumor might begin on a social media site (Facebook, Twitter) and get picked up by local media

There are many ways that church leadership can get informed of an issue the minister might be having. I’ve heard of or witnessed all of the scenarios listed above. The easiest thing to do is panic. The knee-jerk reaction is to fire the pastor.

The best thing to do is for the church leadership is to respond in a calm and biblical manner. Most church by-laws require some sort of due process for the minister. It is important to have a meeting with him. Before that meeting takes place, it is a good idea to do fact gathering from people who are knowledgeable about the situation.

The church leadership should take seriously any first-hand evidence that is presented to them. Always be wise with any evidence, discernmentunderstanding the people presenting it. Such a time requires discernment. If a person asks for a meeting with the church leadership and confesses to an affair with the pastor, should their claim be taken seriously? Absolutely. They have a right to be heard. Their claim should not be rejected outright. If they have evidence of communication, it is even more helpful. A problem can arise when someone rejects their claim because this person, “Isn’t the pastor. They aren’t trustworthy.”

Every person who has a justifiable claim has a right to be heard. Again, the claim may later be rejected as false or partially false, but all evidence needs to be weighed before rejecting any outright.

Gossip, innuendo, and rumor is not typically helpful. Anonymous letters are not the greatest. However, I have known many women who have written such letters and were truthful in what they wrote. Of course, the fact that they did not sign them led many to reject the claim. The church leadership should be careful in approaching such communication.

The pastor’s side of the story should be heard as well. He needs to understand the facts that have been gathered or given to the church leadership. One of the worst things that can happen in a meeting is for things to get personal. Sticking to the facts is very important.  I’ll talk more about meeting with the pastor later. But understand that it is important to always gather as much information as possible.

Don’t Read Into The Situation

If you do hear gossip, receive a letter, or have someone approach your leadership about your pastor’s fidelity, treat it as a serious matter.

One of the worst things we can do when an accusation is made (and no fault has been found in the pastor yet) is to think, “You know he has been acting weird lately,” or “He has always hugged the women in the church too long,” or “I never did feel comfortable around him.” You may feel those statements are true, but those statements may have nothing to do with the matter on the table now.

As church leaders, examine the facts as you have them, pray over them and prepare your heart for what decisions may lie ahead. Next time, we will examine meeting with the pastor, his reaction, and his spouse.

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.

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.

_____________________

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.

The Confused Community: The Wounded Church, 3

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, affair, church, church leadership, church members, churches, fallenness, forgiveness, gossip, pastors, repentance, restoration | Posted on 12-11-2013

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How does a pastor’s fall effect a community? How should local pastors react? What is the church supposed to do when rumorthe pastor commits adultery? Whether you’re a regular attender, member, or visitor, you might be looking for help or a way to cope.

When a pastor falls, a sort of shock wave goes out through the community at large. The church finds out first and word spreads through many different sources. Some of the stories are shared accurately and some of the details become distorted as the tale is passed on.

Let’s look today at how the fall of a pastor effects the different parts of the community and how people can make things better for the church.

1. Those attached to the church

The local church is typically considered to be those who are members and attend with some regularity. Those who are attached might be regular attenders who have never joined, those who are members who consider it their home church, those who live in the community who attend strictly for special services, or those who send their children to the church but do not attend themselves. All of them hold some fondness for the church for a particular reason.

In the years since my fall, I’ve had a chance to talk to some of these folks and how the pastor’s fall had an effect on them. For some, there was great anger toward him and his sin. They were angry that he could commit such a sin and some returned to the church during the turmoil to show support. Some, if they were still members, would willingly show up to vote him out if he had not yet resigned.

I’ve also seen the opposite reaction. Some in this group showed the attitude of, “He’s a sinner/human like the rest of us. He should lose his job, but out of place anger isn’t going to help anyone.”

Why the two reactions? The same two reactions can be seen in a cross section of regular membership, but anger typically prevails. Possibly they don’t have as much of an emotional stake. Perhaps they did not know the pastor well. Or maybe it was a response they learned elsewhere. We will address that in a moment.

2. Local pastors

It actually takes a little longer for local pastors to find out that another pastor has sinned in the community. He typically hears from a church member or from another local pastor. Sometimes he will hear it during a weekly pastor’s meeting.

pastorbrAgain, the responses are different. Many local pastors will distance themselves from the fallen pastor. Even if they’ve known the man for years or from seminary, communication will be shut off. Why? We would hope our pastors would be the most compassionate.

After talking to fallen pastors, ministry leaders, associational leaders and others, I think I’ve put together a pretty good list of why local pastors seem to turn their backs on the fallen pastor.

One, they might feel as if they have nothing to say. What could they say to him? What counsel could they offer? It’s difficult even for a pastor to talk to someone who has fallen so far. Two, they might feel that if they talk to him or help him, they might be seen as being guilty by association. Many pastors are image conscious and don’t want to be seen associating with a pastor caught in adultery. Third, deep down, they each know that lurking within them is the same propensity for sin. Within each of them is lust waiting to be drawn out by temptation. A fallen pastor reminds us all of our frailty.

3. The media and the public at large

Thankfully, this is something I really didn’t have to deal with in a big way. I did have to answer people in public when pagethey had questions, but they were rare.

But I’ve talked to many who have had large churches and their adultery was a news story on television or in the newspaper. Living with that is called consequences. And from what I understand, it’s pretty awful. Most people think the guy deserves it.

What Should We Do?

Let’s step back from these three groups and make an assessment. How are we to react? What are we supposed to do?

I’ve found that people are going to respond to the fall of a pastor in one of three ways, typically. One, they will try and sweep it under the rug and pretend it didn’t happen while asking him to resign. Two, they will force him out and kick him to the curb in anger. Third, they will ask he resign, but surround him in love and godly counsel, seeking to restore him to Christ.

The different reactions, I believe, are a mixture of what we’ve witnessed, what we’ve been taught, and our personalities.

So what about those who aren’t in church very often? If your voice is one of compassion, help and restoring the pastor to Christ, than its important. If you’re going back to add more pyres to the wood pile, don’t.

Do I say that because I’ve been there? Yes. And I’ve been on both sides of it – the side that stirs it up and the side that is being condemned. Before ever moving to condemn anyone, always remember, “There, but for the grace of God go I.”

If you can help the pastor, do it. I had two pastors who reached out to me. That was it. But I had several friends who didn’t go to church reach out to me. All of these people loved me for who I was and not in spite of what I did.

Also, don’t believe everything you hear – from the rumor mill OR the freshly fallen pastor. Bottom line: he sinned and needs people to walk with him. To talk with him, not condemning him, but pushing him towards repentance and restoration.

prayforIt’s also important to ask what your role is in the fall of a pastor. Is it your pastor? Is it your church? If not, pray for him. Don’t spread gossip. Support those you know within the church. If you have godly advice for the church that follows Scripture, offer it. But pray for the church’s leadership that they handle things in a godly manner.

If the fallen pastor tells you his story, it will be from his point of view and it may sound like he is justifying it. You will know he is repenting when he begins to understand that he sinned in the face of God.

And when someone calls you to tell you “what they heard”, don’t listen. Just remember there are people involved all the way around who need love, prayer, support and guidance. Remind yourself what it’s like to be gossiped about.

Above all, have the heart of Christ. Have love for the angry church member, the hurt spouse, the fallen pastor, the other woman, the children, and the church. You can’t go wrong by showing love.

__________________

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

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

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

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The Joel Osteen Hoax: How Much Do We Hate This Guy?

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in anger, bitterness, church, criticize, current events, gossip, hate, hatred, hoax, pastors, preachers | Posted on 11-04-2013

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You’ve probably heard it by now. But you may be wrong in what you heard.

Joel Osteen, the pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, the man with the smile that never seems to stop, doesn’t osteendrudgebelieve in God anymore. At least that was the “headline” running across the Internet days ago. There was an accompanying video, screenshots of stories from The Drudge Report, CNN and other media outlets. People shared this “story” and said thing like, “I knew he was a fake.”

Turns out, Joel Osteen never said any of those things. It was a hoax perpetrated by a guy who just wanted Joel to get “more real.” Impressively enough, even the one-stop shop for debunking Internet rumors, Snopes.com has a page addressing the issue. (Seriously, please go there if you read something or are forwarded something. Bill Gates does not really want to send you $5,000 for forwarding a text or Facebook message. Seriously.)

What would cause someone to do something like this? Why is Osteen so darn polarizing? Let’s look closer.

For starters, his theology has been tossed around as being weak. Now, I’m not a big Joel Osteen fan. His theology is suspect, to say it kindly. Dr. Albert Mohler, the cultural commentator of our times, keeps a close eye on Osteen and his doings. He’s written about him several times on his blog, here, here, and here for instance. He does a good job keeping things theological and not personal. I’ve heard a lot of people say, “I think if he would just say he was a motivational speaker and not a minister, I’d be more comfortable with him.

Or maybe it’s his smile. It throws a lot of people off. He’s been called a shyster, a liar, a used car salesman. To his credit, he’s run a very clean ministry. He has 7 million people who follow him regularly and you’ve probably met someone who just loves his preaching or books.

osteensmileSo what is it? What is it about him?

I really don’t know. But the hoax that came about did bring a problem to light. A very serious one. One that even hit me.

No, I don’t really care for the man’s theology. I’ve skimmed his work, watched him on television on occasion. I don’t wish ill will upon him and if someone asks me my opinion, they can have it. Personally? I don’t want anything awful to happen to the man. And the hoax that was perpetrated upon him was terrible. It was. No one should have to endure an attack of lies like that.

But here’s what bothered me. Thousands of Christians read the “hoax.” Their immediate response, regardless of how they felt about Osteen was to say, “Of course he did this.” And you know, I suppose if they had stopped there, no damage would really have been done. But they forwarded it to people they knew. It was a lie. Did they know? Nope, but they had a responsibility to check it out. I think we all know what that’s called – gossip.

And even if you don’t like the guy, it’s still wrong to do it. Even if you don’t like his books, his preaching, his theology, it gosssipgives none of the right to engage in character assassination. Even if you believe he’s not saved or he’s preaching the wrong gospel or whatever conclusion you’ve arrived at, it is wrong to perpetrate incorrect information about an individual.

But man, how much do we dislike some people in our world? We dislike them so much that we are ready to believe the first bad thing we hear about them, right? That’s how gossip gets continued. That’s how it continues and grows. This was a perfect example. And a few months down the line, you’ll still hear someone say, “I heard Joel Osteen doesn’t believe in God.

Friends, if you’ve been the victim of gossip, you know how it feels. You should always check facts before you hit “send.” In fact, if we hear something bad about a friend, church member, or relative, our first instinct ought to be compassion and love. To reach out and help, not to further destroy.

On a final note (and reiterating that I am not an Osteen apologist), I’d add that even if you don’t like the guy, he is to be commended for how he has handled this situation. He said in a statement that he wasn’t angry and he didn’t feel like a victim. Great response and very humble. If I had been in the same situation, I can’t say I would have been as gracious.

________________________________________

Ray Carroll is author of “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Fallen World.” He also writes for Provoketive Magazine. He is available to speak at your event, church or function.

The Confused Community: The Wounded Church, Part 3

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, anger, bitterness, Christianity, church members, churches, community, gossip, hurt, reconciliation, relationships, repentance, restoration | Posted on 26-10-2012

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(This is part three of a series of who is effected by the fall of a pastor. It’s been three years since my own fall from ministry and hopefully since writing Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World, talking to people who have hurt and been hurt, I have some hopeful advice.)

When a pastor falls, a sort of shock wave goes out through the community at large. The church finds out first and word spreads through many different sources. Some of the stories are shared accurately and some of the details become distorted as the tale is passed on.

Let’s look today at how the fall of a pastor effects the different parts of the community.

1. Those attached to the church

The local church is typically considered to be those who are members and attend with some regularity. Those who are attached might be regular attenders who have never joined, those who are members who consider it their home church, those who live in the community who attend strictly for special services, or those who send their children to the church but do not attend themselves. All of them hold some fondness for the church for a particular reason.

In the years since my fall, I’ve had a chance to talk to some of these folks and how the pastor’s fall had an effect on them. For some, there was great anger toward him and his sin. They were angry that he could commit such a sin and some returned to the church during the turmoil to show support. Some, if they were still members, would willingly show up to vote him out if he had not yet resigned.

Read more after the jump…

Taking A Pastor’s Fall Personally

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, affair, anger, bathsheba, bitterness, Christ, church, compassion, criticize, fallenness, gossip, grace, hatred, pastors, preachers, pride, reconciliation, repentance, restoration, sin | Posted on 07-08-2012

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I’m the kind of guy who takes things very personally. Some people are just wired that way. I like to act like things just roll off my back and I really don’t care but I’m pretty sensitive.

I’ve gotten better since I started blogging about not taking things personally, which is a good thing for all of us to learn.

I mention it today for a very serious reason. And this is a blog to be read very, very carefully.

Know why? Because I care about everyone on every side of this issue. Fallen pastors, their spouses, those they’ve been involved with, their churches, their families, their fellow pastors, their children – everyone. Know why? Because they are all worthy of the love and care of Christ.

When a pastor commits adultery and falls from the ministry, it hurts many people. Since my fall, I’ve had time to listen to people on every side of the fall. Of course, I was the adulterous pastor. I knew what it was like to be selfish, leave the ministry and not listen to anyone.

I’ve also had time to listen to the wives of fallen pastors. Hear their side of the story. I’ve also heard from the women who committed adultery with the pastor. I’ve talked to church members and friends of the fallen pastor. I’ve seen this issue from all sides and I must say, it has humbled me even greater than before.

After a pastor commits adultery, it breaks hearts. It wounds people. It makes a story for everyone. Sometimes it ends up on the front page of the newspaper if the church is big enough. It always makes the rounds in gossip in the community. Regardless, it is an act that hurts many people. It angers many. It leaves many asking, “Why? How? What are the reasons?”

Let me state this very carefully. Because some people may read it very wrong. So I’m going to start with Scripture. After David committed adultery with Bathsheba, he wrote Psalm 51. He said in verses 3-4:

For I know my transgressions,
        and my sin is ever before me.
    Against you, you only, have I sinned
        and done what is evil in your sight,
    so that you may be justified in your words
        and blameless in your judgment.
(Psalm 51:3-4 ESV)

I used to wonder what David meant by, “Against you, you only, have I sinned.” He was talking to God. Surely David knew he had sinned against Bathsheba’s husband by killing him. Surely fallen pastors know they sin against their own wives when they commit adultery. So what’s the deal?

Here’s the deal - when any of us sin, the sin debt we owe is owed only to God. We will only face Him for judgment. Him alone. At the end of it all, we face no man. We face God Almighty. That’s a lot of judgment to answer to.

That’s why it’s so important for us to walk a righteous path. To be justified in Christ. To then walk a life of holiness. To repent after we have sinned and cry out to God after our transgression.

Now, to the tough part. When a pastor sins, he hurts a lot of people. I’ve heard a lot of pastor’s mothers, sisters, brothers, mentors, cousins, grandparents, church members and so on say, “How could he do this to us?”

Let me say this very gently. He didn’t do it to you. It feels like it though, doesn’t it? Your pastor didn’t sin directly against you. He did a very selfish, sinful thing, but he did not directly do it to hurt you. Don’t take it personally. He chose a path of sin, did it consciously, with his own flesh in mind, but he did not have you in mind when he did it. He was not trying to directly hurt you in the process. You cannot take it to an extreme personal level that you begin to harbor horrible feelings toward him.

I can speak to this because I’ve been hurt before by a direct family member. He hurt me. He left our family. Hurt us. And I took it personally. He even told me he didn’t mean for me to take it personally. Looking back, I know he was right. He didn’t mean to hurt me personally.

The fallen pastor, like my family member did what they did because they were sinners. They were selfish. Did your fallen pastor hurt you? Absolutely. Did it have an effect on your relationship with him? Yes, without a doubt. Was he under the influence of sin? Yes. But did he do it maliciously to harm you? More than likely not.

Now let me ask a question. When you are selfish in your life. When you sin. When you do things to please yourself. When you commit sins of gossip, lying, covetousness, idolatry, stealing, lust, pornography, covering up other sins – are you necessarily doing it to personally harm someone else? A family member? Probably not.

So what is your role now? If you’re a relative, a church member, a fellow pastor or a friend? Well what does Scripture say? Does Scripture say to take it personally and hold his sin against him? No. It says in the spirit of Galatians 6:1 to restore him. But you may say, “But I don’t have it in me. It hurts too much. I don’t understand why he did this.

In my experience in interviewing fallen pastors, you may never understand. But you have to keep praying. Keep the door open slightly. Keep letting him know you love him. That doesn’t mean condoning his sin, but let him know that you love him for who he is, in Christ as a brother. That doesn’t mean loving him for his sin, but loving him because he’s him. That may be the hardest thing you’ve ever done, but it may mean more to him that you’ll ever know.

When I fell, I had about three people reach out to me. None of them were family. It took family about three months to talk to me. It took four months for the first church member to say something. I want you to know something very important. A pastor is just as much a member of the body of Christ as anyone else. If he falls, we are to go after him. If he shows signs of repentance, no matter how small, we are to rescue him.

Just because he gets a paycheck doesn’t mean we get to fire him because he sins. It doesn’t mean because he commits a sin we get to toss him by the side of the road. The body of Christ includes all of the members. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. (1 Corinthians 12:26 ESV)

Above it all, try not to take it personally. Don’t run to Facebook and say, “How could he do this to me?” or to the woman he was with “You are such a *@&$#” as one person did to Allison. He didn’t do it to you. He has a higher standard to answer to. Instead, go to him. Run to his side. Don’t judge him immediately, but find out what is going on in his heart. Ask him, “Let’s work through this.” He may not want to talk right away, but he will know you are there.

The body of Christ is made up of many parts. At least one of them might be able to reach out to the fallen pastor.

__________________

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

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

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

The TMZ Attitude of the Church

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in church, criticize, gossip, relationships, sin | Posted on 30-04-2012

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You’re a Christian. You just got caught embezzling money. You got caught cheating on your spouse. You got caught lying to a large group of people about your true nature. Everyone just found out that you’re an alcoholic.

Worst part? You’re a member of a large church. Everyone knows you and respects you. Past tense: Respected you.

Now, your sin is out there for everyone to see.

Your sin gets exposed in several different ways. You may come forward with it on your own. You confess to your spouse, your church and to your friends, hoping for a restoration to a Christian walk. That doesn’t happen very often. When it does, sometimes it turns out well.

Maybe you get caught. When you get caught, it might make front page news. Maybe you get arrested. Maybe the phone lines burn up with words like, “Can you believe _________ did ___________? Unbelievable!”

What you will learn quickly is who your friends are.

The Christian community is called to restore those who fall. Galatians 6:1 cannot be any clearer:  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.

Unfortunately, in many churches in our world, the idea of restoration has been mixed with a TMZ idea of scandal and soap opera drama. Instead of rushing to the sinner’s side, many parishoners sit on their hands and wait to see what will happen next. When the faintest wafting of gossip comes their way, the prayer chain is jammed with misinformation.

Members don’t bring covered dishes, they stand back with disdain and judgment.

Why does this type of attitude remain in our churches? I’ve written about it in my book, but it has to be said over and over again if we are to attempt to restore the sinners in our midst. If they aren’t worth saving, who is?

Many people look down on a sinner because it gives them a chance to say, “I’m better than they are.” It’s like we can all line ourselves up from most devious to most righteous. But that doesn’t work in God’s economy. The justification of Christ means that all Christians stand holy before God. When any of us commit a sin, we are forgiven. He still holds us fast in His hand and forgives us when we ask.

Many look down on us because they see how close they are to the same sin. Our own sin exposes their sinful hearts. We are each capable of the most heinous sins if we do not stand guard and give ourselves to the Spirit.

When a member falls, when a member sins, make haste to their side. Even if they don’t answer right away. Even if they distance themselves from you. Even if they don’t return your calls or texts. Approach them in love, not judgment. Let them know you love them. Treat them like the person they were before. They need to know they are loved. God is the one who will work on their hearts. Trust God to do His work and you stand by and walk with them.

And as my mother used to say, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”

__________________

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.