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What I Miss About Pastoring: Preaching

Thought I’d write a few posts about what I miss most (and least) about pastoring. I’m not sure who it’ll help or if it will give insight to congregations about what their pastor goes through. A quick disclaimer – don’t take me to say that I regret my current life. If you’re...

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Guest Blog: Matching the Chip

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in guest blog | Posted on 05-02-2014

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Honored today to have Diana Savage, published author and friend, writing a guest post. Please take the time to read more about her below. Also, take time to check out her new book, “52 Heart Lifters for Difficult Times.” The floor is yours, Diana…

Matching the Chip

by Diana Savage

“God is sheer mercy and grace; not easily angered, he’s rich in love” (Psalm 103:8 MSG).

When a homeowner hired a man to paint her living room, she handed the painter a little paint chip and said, “I want the walls this same shade.”

He mixed paint and covered one wall with it, but she wasn’t satisfied. “It’s not a perfect match,” she explained.

He tried again. And again. After his fifth attempt, the woman continued to point to the chip. “You don’t have quite the same color.”

When he told a friend about it the following week, the friend asked, “Were you ever able to get the correct shade?”

“No. But she was okay after a long phone call to her mom.”

“You mean her mother convinced her that a perfect match wasn’t possible?”

“No,” said the painter. “While she was on the phone, I painted the chip.”ChristmasCurls

Often we perfectionists resort to “painting the chip” in order to present a flawless image to others. Perfection isn’t possible, but we learned early in life that the only nice thing about being imperfect is the joy it brings to others. One of my most vivid lessons on that subject took place when a Sunday-school teacher assigned me a “piece” to memorize for our holiday program.

Mom combed tangles from my never-cut locks. Then she washed my hair and rolled it up in little blue rubber curlers to dry over the next two days. She did that only twice a year—at Easter and Christmas. When the curlers came out on Sunday morning, I put on my best dress, and we left for church in the family Studebaker.

Not everyone in my class was so prim and proper. Fidgety Willard Jackson always seemed to be getting into one scrape after another. Even his first and last names were troublesome. They both sounded like surnames to me, and I had trouble remembering their proper order.

My strict upbringing had already taught me that if I followed rules, I had a better chance of escaping punishment. So, when the teacher stressed that we needed to deliver our pieces s-l-o-w-l-y, I paid attention.

The morning of the program, we all filed onto the platform. I proudly and loudly recited my holiday rhyme in a slow, measured cadence. My parents’ beaming faces assured me I had done a good job.

Then it was my high-strung classmate’s turn. He rattled off his piece so fast, it was unintelligible. To my surprise, the teacher didn’t correct the boy, so I turned toward the end of the line and said loudly enough for him to hear, “Slow down, Jackson!”

The audience erupted in laughter.

I wanted to die. Everyone’s laughing at me for getting his first and last names mixed up! I thought. I could only hope my gaffe would soon be forgotten. Instead, it became a Family Legend. I was in my fifties before I could even smile about it.

Many perfectionists who struggle with insecurity have been fettered by rigid rules and hammered by such Bible verses as Matthew 5:48 (NIV), “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Talk about an impossible goal! Some Bible scholars believe Jesus was saying that aiming for perfection is what’s important, even if we can never truly be perfect. Others, looking at the scriptural context, assert that the previous verses in Matthew 5 emphasize a Christian’s duty to love, so anyone who loves can be considered perfect. As a child, I knew nothing of those interpretations. All I knew was that in order to be acceptable, I couldn’t make mistakes.

Most perfectionistic Christians have difficulty understanding the true nature of God. We were taught to be on constant guard because the Almighty’s wrath was just a lightning bolt away.

Although I wasn’t worried that my comment to antsy Willard would make me miss heaven, I was humiliated by what I perceived to be everyone’s scorn and derision. I was ashamed because I’d failed to pull off a flawless performance. It took studying Scripture using correct principles of interpretation to see how loving, patient, and kind God really is. In fact, God knows better than we do that attaining perfection is impossible in this life. King David declared, “The Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:13–14).

While it’s never fun to let others see our dusty side, we struggling perfectionists need to realize that we’re valuable individuals even when we miss the mark. The good news is, God doesn’t punish us for our fallibility. Instead, he makes up the difference when we trust in him. He also knows we don’t need reminders of every commandment and regulation. We’ve already got ’em memorized. What we need is grace.

52Coming to understand the true definition of grace stops me from panicking whenever I end up a slightly different shade than the model paint chip. I’ve learned that the Master Painter will still make room for me in his palette.

Right there next to Jackson.

Compassionate Father, thank you for releasing me from the prison of persnicketiness and for your assurance that you won’t reject me when I fail to measure up to impossible standards of perfection. Amen.

Adapted from: 52 Heart Lifters for Difficult Times. Copyright © 2014 by Diana Savage. Published by Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, OR. Used by permission.

____________________

Diana Savage has worked for years working in Christian organizations. She has spent time mentoring, speaking and writing and you can see her at work on her website, www.heartlifters.net. She has contributed to many works over the years including two Chicken Soup for the Soul titles. You can also find her on Twitter.

Diana cares about people, their hearts and it shines through in her writing and her ministry. Besides being a talented writer, she has become a friend to me. Please do take the time to check out her work as well as her new book. As soon as I can wrestle my copy away from my wife, I’ll be writing a review.

Guest Blog: Transparency and the Glory of God

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in guest blog, ministry, pornography | Posted on 14-11-2013

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I always love to have people write guest blogs for me. It gives me an opportunity to showcase other ministries and viewpoints. Today is Gavin Croft of Isaiah 53 Ministry – a friend I made recently. Take time to visit his site and give him your support.

by Gavin M. Croft

I shared the story of my past pornography addiction and subsequent healing and restoration with my church recently from the pulpit. I had pulpittmentioned various aspects of my past in previous sermons and have even been accused of talking about sexual purity too much. But this was the first time that I laid out my story with some details, explaining how our marriage has been restored, how I found a measure of healing and now am able to minister to others who are in similar situations.

I have always planned on sharing my story with my church; I just wanted it to be organic and natural. You have to pick your spots. But it is a part of my life and God is using my past failures in mighty ways, so I knew that it was necessary. We were finishing up an 8-week series from Psalm 51 (yes, I know, 8 weeks in Psalm 51 is a bit much.)

When we arrived at verses 12 and 13 and I knew it was the perfect opportunity: 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. 13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you.

David, being a transgressor and a sinner, is able to minister and teach other transgressors and sinners because he has found a measure of healing. The joy of his salvation has been restored, and his spirit is willing to be used by God. David had become a wounded minister of reconciliation (1 Cor. 5:16-21).

The main point of the sermon was that we all have a story, we all have a past, we all have fallen terribly short of the glory of God, but God is willing and able to use us in spite of our failures. God is using our story for His glory. And God desires His children to live in a family community of love, trust and transparency, where broken people can minister to other broken people (Psalm 51:17) and together they can worship (vs. 15) and find God’s favor (vs. 19).

I must admit, I was a bit nervous how the church was going to react to my story. My wife was even more nervous. It is always a scary thing to be so transparent with people, even people you know and love. Would they look at us differently? Would they talk about us over lunch? Do they think the reason I set up procedures for ministerial staff to have accountability software on their computers and devices was so I wouldn’t fall back into sin? Any number of questions were flailing around in our heads. But, as far as I know, everyone took the message really well. At least no one has said anything to me personally.

mancomputI can’t dictate what they say once they leave the church or what they whisper to each other. But that can’t be my concern. My concern is exhorting the truth of Scripture and allowing my story to be used for God’s glory.

I am so thankful and appreciative of other men and women who are allowing their story to be used for God’s glory. They very easily could have rolled over and never ministered again after their sin, but that’s not what God wants. David was still able to minister. Did he suffer consequences from his sin? Absolutely. Devastating consequences. But he persevered nonetheless.

If you are a fallen pastor or church leader, I would encourage you to seek God on how your story can be used for His glory. Take time to heal. Take time to be restored. Get out of sin if you haven’t yet. And when the time is right, God will present you with the opportunity. And others will be the benefactors of your healing.

Psalm 51:12-13: Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you.

Gavin is the pastor of a small Southern Baptist Church in SWFL. His purity and his marriage have been restored by the grace of God and the forgiveness of his wife. His desire is to glorify the name of Jesus Christ throughout SWFL and to the ends of the earth. God has also given the Crofts a unique ministry opportunity with their site www.isaiah53ministry.org. There, men and women can find help, support and resource for dealing with sexual sin and betrayal.

____________________

Ray Carroll is 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.

Guest Blog By My 10 Year Old Daughter

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in daughters, guest blog | Posted on 14-06-2013

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katieSo, I was blogging the other day and my daughter Katie said, “Can I write a blog?” I said, “Really?” She said, “Yeah, but don’t read it while I write it!”

I was hesitant a bit, but I let my lovely 10 year old write. She said, “It’s done!” She wanted to write about what it was like being the daughter of “The Fallen Pastor.” She’s a very smart young woman and I’m very proud of her.

I’m really proud of all my kids. And I’m proud of her for wanting to do this. I learned something and I think we all can. So, here’s Katie:

Ok, so I really don’t know what to say so I’m just gonna say my daddy is awesome to start off. I love him so much!

When the whole THING happened I was six or seven so I didn’t know what was going on and now I’m ten and I understand almost everything about it. I forgave him right off the bat and so did my awesome sister Abigail. It was hard for me and my sister the first couple months then it got better then hard again  then easy again.

People say we have it really easy but nobody ever asked the kid that  “has it really easy” if they thought that they did! Times have been really hard especially at the  beginning of everything when people could have forgiven daddy and been nice to him but still might be a little mad, acted mean and daddy handled it very calmly.

I don’t know what I would do without by dad because he has taught me a lot in life and I’m so glad he is in my life! And I promise you, he didn’t tell me to write ANY of this stuff! Have a wonderful day! :]

Sincerely,

Katie

______________________

I would add, Katie, I love you very much too. I didn’t always handle everything “very calmly.” But since then, I’ve tried to do better. I hope you can see it. – Daddy

“You Aren’t Who They Say You Are,” Guest Blog

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in blog, guest blog | Posted on 02-04-2013

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I had the pleasure of writing a guest blog for my friend Mark at his blog, “Here I Blog.” If you haven’t read his stuff, you’re missing out.

My post is entitled, “You Aren’t Who They Say You Are.”  It’s about how we perceive ourselves and how we perceive other’s perceptions of us. Make sense? Thanks to Mark for posting it. Head on over and take a look.

Returning From a Fall: Walking God’s Slow Path Home

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in forgiveness, God, guest blog, restoration | Posted on 12-12-2012

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(Today’s post is brought to you by my friend, Roy Yanke. There’s more about him below. He is one of the many fine people I have met whose mission it is to help pastors who have left the ministry. Today, this blog belongs to him. Make sure you check out his ministry and blog sites listed below. He’s doing some remarkable things.)

Long Time Now, by T-Bone Burnett

I been waiting for a long, long time
I been waiting for a long, long time
I been waiting for a long, long time
I been waiting for the long time now

I can hear the footsteps
Following behind me
Trying to find me
But when I turn around
I can’t see where the path goes
Into the shadows
Into the shadows

I been waiting for a long, long time
I been waiting for a long, long time
I been waiting for a long, long time
I been waiting for the long time now

I can hear you breathing
Whispering in my ear
There is nothing to fear
But when I turn around
As I see the trees bow
I only hear the wind blow

By mistake I felt alone
In my heart I’ve always known
You’d be there to bring me home

I been waiting for a long, long time
I been waiting for a long, long time
I been waiting for a long, long time
I been waiting for the long time now

There are no shortcuts coming back from a fall.

None of us wants to live with the pain, the shame, or the consequences of moral failure. The temptation, fairly soon after we fall, is to try to find a fast track back to where we once were. It is a common temptation, not exclusive to pastors. It is very difficult to sit with failure for very long. We believe that if we can just get moving again, the pain will disappear, people will forget and we, too, will forget the loss.

I have become convinced that this does not reflect the path that God has in mind for us; especially if we are going to recover and be restored in our most significant relationships. Often His plan involves a long period of waiting.

In 1991, my external world fell apart. I was an active, serious and committed pastor of a small but growing church. On the outside, everything looked great. But my internal world had been crumbling for some time. Baggage I had carried with me into my walk with Jesus had come with me into ministry. I was living a double life and, as is typical, the tension created by trying to manage my own sin couldn’t last for long. It was God’s severe mercy that brought me up short, turned the world upside down for me and all those around me, and sent me out of ministry.

It has now been more than two decades since the day God started to rework my life. As the years passed, I have journeyed through a great deal of shame and have answered a whole lot of questions. I needed to be restored in my relationship with God, my family and the Church, and a return to ministry was honestly never an option that occurred to me. But in the course of my journey, God’s great grace has been revealed through small steps and continual confirmations that He wasn’t through with me.

It took several years before I was finally able to ask, “Would God be angry at me if I thought about returning to ministry?” His answer was a clear one, given through the counsel of those around me who knew me best: “I am not angry, and I am not done with you yet!” That “return” has been incremental – reawakening the gifts God has given in the midst of our church family. Still, it took a “chance” breakfast meeting with a new friend last December to see God open the door to a return to full-time ministry – fully 21 years after my exit. Today, I am the Midwest Regional Director of PIR Ministries – a ministry that exists solely for the purpose of offering hope to at-risk and exited pastors.

The temptation to short cut God’s process in my life has reared its ugly head at various points along the way. But I have learned a hard lesson: trying to kick the door in, to find a quicker way out of the consequences of our failures, never accomplishes God’s purposes. There is purpose in pain. There is much to be learned in the long journey back. The biblical examples are there, too. It was 40 years after he committed murder that Moses was given the mantle of leadership for God’s people. Paul spent at least 3 years in the desert after his conversion, before Barnabas went looking for him.

As humans, we may always be in a rush, but God’s purposes and timing are perfect. There is another song, a worship song, which reminds me that, regardless of how long the journey, “He never let’s go!

I am so glad to be a part of a ministry that believes it is possible to be restored from failure. I am also glad that the value of pain is written right into our mission statement. And, I am glad that we believe in a process of renewal that begins with being restored to God, family, and fellowship in the church FIRST. With that comes the knowledge and acceptance that not all who are restored are reinstated to a role of leadership.

At PIR Ministries, we come alongside the exited and fallen pastors to remind them that, no matter how long the wait, there is always a way back to restoration through Christ.

_____________________

Roy Yanke

Midwest Regional Director

PIR Ministries

www.exited-pastors.com

www.pirministries.com

Worthy of Restoration: Now with Active Link

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in guest blog, restoration | Posted on 15-02-2012

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I wrote a guest blog for my friend Joy Wilson at her blog. Take time to check it out.

Here’s an excerpt:

After my fall, I knew that no one is above reproach. No one is beyond sin and anyone can fall. More importantly, all of us are within the grasp of grace, in need of restoration and the love of people who will walk beside us. The only problem is finding people who can and will decide to help us.

I’d like to challenge you today in regard to restoration. Most of us will fall in this lifetime. We will do something we are ashamed of and will stand in need of forgiveness. All of us are worthy of restoration but we have to be ready to take the time for the restorative act to take place.

Thanks, and make sure you read Joy’s stuff. It’s really, really good.

The First Stone

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, affair, guest blog, preaching, reconciliation, repentance, restoration | Posted on 07-02-2012

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My new friend, Travis Mamone let me write a guest blog for him at his site, “The Boy with the Thorn in His Side.” I highly recommend his blog. He’s a very talented writer and does an excellent job.

My blog post is about the first time I got to preach after I fell from ministry – two years later. It’s a story I haven’t told before and I hope you enjoy it.

Take time to check out Travis’ blog and comment on it. You’ll be glad you did.

Guest Blog: Joy Wilson

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in authors, civitas press, divorce, guest blog | Posted on 16-08-2011

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[It's an honor to have my friend and fellow Civitas Press author, Joy Wilson guest blog today. Check out her new book Uncensored Prayer: The Spiritual Practice of Wrestling With God (available in paperback and Kindle). I've gotten to know her online and she is a remarkable woman. The floor is yours, Joy . . .]

The Divorce

by Joy Wilson

“I’m getting a divorce,” she said, arms crossed like a shield over her heart.  “I don’t want to talk about it, but I would rather have a best friend than a husband.”  Then she left.  In and out my kitchen door in sixty seconds flat.

I knew better than to run after her.  Katharine keeps her true feelings buttoned up tight, and the fact that she came to tell me in person meant a lot to me.  This girl’s known for her loud mouth and silent heart, and I couldn’t for the life of me tell if she was callous, angry, or heart-broken.  She and her husband are kissy-face with each other on Facebook, and their posts the previous week had been no different. What happened so suddenly? Nothing.

A divorce doesn’t heat up in a microwave.  It simmers for a long time until everything good boils away and the pot cracks.  Love, trust, and respect leak out the holes, and the situation may seem irredeemable. “Nothing is impossible with God” can sound like a bad joke.  I know.  I’ve lived there.  But what I didn’t know years ago is every marriage comes with booby-traps and a self-destruct kit you don’t have to be taught how to use.

There’s a dormant seed in each significant relationship that will sprout when fertilized with enough evil – evil meaning anything that doesn’t look like our loving God.  Pain and injury are unavoidable, but damage control is possible if both parties are willing to participate in the healing process.  It’s the practice of inflicting pain over time that finally kills.

I don’t know what happened between Katharine and her husband.  They’ve only been married two years, but things can disintegrate really fast, especially if the glue is water soluble.  It’s easier to bolt than struggle through difficulties.  In similar situations, I’ve run, lied, cheated, abused, and been abused.  I did this enough times until I gave up on half the population, and vented my rage at God.  I thought I had given up on marriage.  What I didn’t know was I had given up on myself.  Over time, I faced the fact that my best plans and ideas had never worked, and I finally asked God for help.  I had become teachable, and learned that I am a precious woman of great value, capable of having a wonderful marriage if I allowed God to change my heart and teach me healthy ways to interact with men.  No new marriage was ever promised. But then I met Bud – a friend of God.

For almost twelve years now, Bud and I have shared the marriage I’ve always wanted: realistic, but filled with love and respect, and we do whatever it takes to keep it alive and well.  God is first in our lives, followed by our relationship.  Even our children aren’t second in that line-up.  I know this may sound weird, but I love my soul-bond with Bud more than I love him.  Unlike Katharine, I’d rather have him as I husband than as my best friend.

I have three best friends: Bud and two “girlfriends”.  We share confidences and enjoy each others’ individual company. Each one meets different heart’s desires in my life.  Of the three, Bud and I have a unique partnership because of co-habitation, sex, joint finances, and family, embraced by commitment to God and each.  That last part makes all the difference when I’m really pissed at Bud and want to tell him to get the f… out (for an hour or two).

Katharine would rather be “right” than be right with her husband.  Even when we each think “I’m right”, Bud and I have decided to seek a solution that’s mutually beneficial for both of us.  I would much rather run from this responsibility sometimes, or use words like a weapon.  But I haven’t so far, and pray I never will, because I know Bud and I are fully capable of destroying this beautiful marriage.  I’ve also learned that God can resurrect the dead to new life, but we have to be teachable and unselfish.  We have to be willing to cooperate with God and each other.  We have to be willing to heal.

Katharine, if you’re living in hell, I wouldn’t want your marriage either.  If you’re running because you’re not “in love” anymore, or life together has gotten tough, I wish I could convince you that your next marriage won’t be any different unless you change.  I learned the hard way that God alone heals broken hearts and relationships, and I pray the day will come where you fall flat on your face, if that’s what it takes, so that you can learn that, too.

Joy Wilson is the author of Uncensored Prayer: The Spiritual Practice of Wrestling With God (Civitas Press, 2011). She and her husband, Bud, are two life-long hippies.  They live in Bartlett, TN, with six cats, two dogs, and a timber wolf hybrid.  Joy is an Outlaw Preacher and an active participant in Kairos Prison Ministry.  You can usually find her at home writing or intently reading history and mystery books.  Contact Joy at joyleewilson@gmail.com and on Facebook (website is under contruction).