Was reminded of this little beauty the other day. Wanted to share it. It’s become a favorite of mine in recent years.
Fire and Ice
by Robert Frost
So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. (Matthew 5:23-24 ESV) I write a lot about reconciliation and forgiveness....
Was reminded of this little beauty the other day. Wanted to share it. It’s become a favorite of mine in recent years.
by Robert Frost
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 believe 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.
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 gives 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.
I was so thankful yesterday to get a Facebook inbox message from a friend who was concerned about the current argument in America over gay marriage. Like many Christians, she was concerned about the moral failure of the country. She had been watching Facebook and so have I. I too, have seen many comments like, “Why don’t people see what Scripture says?”
I’ll be honest. I don’t watch television news. For a good reason. It’s only purpose seems to be to rile people up over things that are insignificant. You get stressed out. I mentioned in an online magazine recently how watching TV news in a constant flow caused my mother anxiety.
She said she read my blog occasionally and never saw me write anything about the issue. I don’t. My blog is about fallen
pastors, mostly. Then, I write about issues secondary to that. Then, after that, I write about what tickles my fancy. I don’t avoid the big issues. I’ve written about big issues before, but they’re just not on the radar of what I do.
My response to her was probably not what she expected, but I hope it was biblical. (She did thank me for the sermon :)) I want to post it here then add some comments after. Here it is, verbatim:
Here is what I would say. And I pray it’s the biblical thing, because any response of my own would be wrong.
I’d take it back to the apostle Paul who wrote to a church that was probably going through more moral decay than we are, if you can imagine. In his time, it wasn’t just the culture, it was members of the church who were declining in morality. Members of the church were going up to the pagan temple and sleeping with temple prostitutes.
Paul was surrounded by a pagan Roman culture that was filled with violence, sex, child molestation, and hedonism – and all of it was legal. But Paul didn’t write against the evil around him in the world. He wrote about the sin within the church. He says something interesting in 1 Corinthians 5:
Please take time to read more important stuff after the jump:
I live in Kentucky, but I am not a native of this state. I am a born and bred Arkansan. I make it known to anyone who will listen. When I bring it up to Kentucky basketball fans, I am often mocked. For good reason. We won our championship back in 1994. Kentucky has won a billion.
I even got punked out by Cameron Mills one time in Rupp Arena about Arkansas’ lack of titles.
I’m just happy that we have a banner to hang. Things are looking up.
I say that to say this: There’ a huge game this weekend. University of Louisville vs. University of Kentucky. I’m sure you’ve heard of it by now. It’s the Final Four.
These teams have been battling the war of Armageddon since time began. They hate one another. Worse, the fans hate each other more. Rumor has it that the sports bars in downtown Louisville are only allowing either UK or UL fans in the door. They don’t want fights on game night. They know the score. Smart move.
Now, for my rant. I’ve lived in the blessed Bluegrass since 1995. I had no idea how much the people in Kentucky love their Wildcats. It took me a few years to understand it, but it goes beyond reason. Seriously.
Here’s a question I like to ask Kentucky fans while I’m watching a game with them. I’ll see a Kentucky player commit an awful foul. Or he’ll walk. Or he’ll lose his temper. Everyone in the country sees it. He’s guilty as sin. But the Kentucky fan says, “He’s getting ripped off by some biased officials!”
I’ll say, “Seriously? Did you see what happened? He was wrong?” Then my follow up question that I ask of every Kentucky fan. “Does living in Kentucky make you a basketball official? Does living in Kentucky make you smarter than every other basketball fan in the country?
I wish their answers were different every time I asked. It’s not. They answer the same way. They say, “Yes. It does.”
So, living in Kentucky makes them a better basketball fan, off court referee, game caller, recliner coach and observer of the game than any other human being on the face of the planet. Great.
For a while, this sentiment caused me some great distress. Then, I started thinking. UK fans aren’t alone in that type of thinking.
When I was in seminary, it was hard to find a church to attend in Louisville. Most churches had developed “seminary classes.” They didn’t like having seminary students in their “regular classes.” Know why? Because seminary students are know-it-alls. They tear down the teacher, tell him why he’s wrong, and challenge his every statement. It got pretty pitiful. It was hard to find a teacher for those classes.
When I was pastoring, I thought I was smarter than everyone in my congregation. I felt superior. Boy, was I wrong. I should have been submitting to them. Instead, I got proud, high and mighty. I should have been their servant, but instead I placed myself over them as their superior.
Kentucky fans think they know everything about basketball because they were born in the blessed Bluegrass. Not so. There’s not much humility in most Kentucky fans. Similarly, there’s not much humility in a man with a Master of Divinity. Or a pastor. Or a church member who relies on his education.
Christ calls us to be weak people. He wants us weak. He desires us to cast ourselves upon him while we are weak so that we might glorify His strength.
Wish I’d seen it coming years ago. Christ, our broken, bleeding Savior, is our role model. Let it always be.
I just read a story about Zachery Tims, pastor of a megachurch in Orlando, Florida. Never heard of him before tonight. Apparently, he was found dead in New York from a drug overdose. The article I link tells of his roller coaster past.
He had one of the largest churches in central Florida – over 7,000 members.
As a young man, he was in and out of jail.
As a pastor, he had started a youth center in 2005 in hopes that it would help kids stay out of trouble.
In 2009, he and his wife divorced after he admitted to an affair with a stripper that had lasted over a year.
Funny how a man’s life can be summed up in less than 500 words. However, the public can chime in and say whatever they want these days in the “comment” section. Here’s a sampling that made me weep:
Oh Brother Tim’s we forgive you. That white powder was baby powder you were handing out to un-wed mothers. The hooker you were boffing was just a misunderstanding,you were really administering to her soul. The prison time you spent was just a test of your faith. It’s a shame that the woman you were married to for 15yrs. turned out to be such a bad person. Imagine leaving you after all that time just bcause of an alledged affair, where is that womans faith Rev. Tim’s?
Hypocrites, Most of these right wing church pastors and their flock of sheeple, love money more than God.
RIGHT ON! This guy was up to no good-he probably is warm enough where he resides now. ETERNITY IS FOREVER!
The paper reported that Tims had been in and out of jail as a young man… In 2009, Tims and his wife Riva divorced after he admitted to a year-long affair with a stripper. Sounds qualified to me to tell others how they should live their lives, eh? Petty criminal and a cheat – just what you’d want standing in the pulpit……. Sheesh.
None of us knows his heart, the pressure he was under or what changes he had made in his life. All we know about him is what we read in 500 words. It sure is easy to judge a man by a news article.
How would any of us feel if someone were given a brief, 2 minute synopsis of our life then were allowed to judge us quickly based on what they heard? I doubt we would like it. Did this man make grievous errors and sins? Absolutely. He sinned and messed up tremendously. However, it is not for the public to judge. It is not for us to “comment” on. All of us are wretched and if our lives were to be openly displayed online for public comment, we would fare no better than Zachery Tims.
It is very easy to comment anonymously from our computers on the downward path of a fallen pastor who strayed with a stripper and died from a cocaine overdose than to look within our own wretched hearts, isn’t it? Each of us are lawbreakers. If our secret lives were displayed so openly, we would have to run for cover while people bombarded our Facebook and Twitter accounts with harsh, unloving messages for months.
So I might suggest to commenters at large . . . you’re not any different than a fallen pastor. All of us are hypocrites. Just some of us have further to fall.
I started retelling my story last time with a short prelude into how I ended up in the ministry. Strange how we can summarize our lives into one blog post.
I’ve talked to a lot of fallen pastors and have found that before their fall, they experience crisis or tragedy. The same was true for me. However, even if tragedy or crisis strikes, each fallen pastor I have spoken to is careful to point out that their sin is still their sin. There was no excuse for what they did.
I don’t write about the tragedies that occurred before my fall to garner pity, only to let you know that a fall just doesn’t “happen.” There are a typically a myriad of swirling circumstances around the event that contribute to a fall.
My parents divorced in 2005 and my mother moved to our little community. She was devastated by the divorce and I was angry at my father. He and I had never had a very good relationship. The divorce didn’t help much, either. Mom was an instant hit with my two daughters. They had never had a grandparent so readily accessible. She doted on them and played Barbies with them like there was no tomorrow.
In February of 2007, my father died in an accident when he fell. He was living about an hour away and our relationship had slightly improved, but I still harbored much resentment toward him. I sought counseling after he died to deal with my anger and hatred toward him.
I thought that his death would remove the bitterness I felt in my life, but I was wrong. It was still there, festering.
The next year, we had a crisis in the church. I won’t detail it here, but suffice it to say it was a small situation that got blown out of proportion. It lasted for at least six months. We tried to ignore it, hoping that it would go away, but it didn’t. Feelings were hurt, people left, and it kept me awake at night. It was one of the worst stretches of my pastorate. In fact, I was starting to send out resumes. I was beginning to hate the ministry. All I wanted to do was preach, but the nagging crisis was all I could see before me.
While the crisis was still going on, Christmas 2008 was fast approaching. I was hoping the New Year would bring some peace and resolution.
I traveled with my wife and children to see her family in a neighboring state. Mom stayed behind at home to get ready for Christmas. On the way out of town, we even saw her in her car and waved to her on the way out of town. That was December 22nd.
The next morning, I awoke with a horrible feeling. I wasn’t sure what was wrong, but I knew something was out of sorts. I called Mom. No answer. I called again. Still no answer. That wasn’t like her. She was OCD like me and always had a phone with her. I called and called and called.
I soon found out that she had been in a car accident. She had hit a sheet of ice and slipped off the road and hit a tree.
We left my wife’s family’s house and began to drive back home. On the way, I received a call from a hospital near Nashville. Mom was gone.
I have no way to tell you how I felt. Those of you who have lost loved ones suddenly to tragedy know how it feels. And when you lose them near a holiday, you know how intense it is. And more, you know what it’s like to have to tell your kids. I had to break my kids’ hearts that day.
We finally got back home and I had to go to Nashville and identify her body. Thankfully, one of my deacons did that for me. When we got back to the church, many of the members were there. They had been praying and mourning. It was a beautiful moment for me. Most of them didn’t know what to say to me, but that was okay. I didn’t know what to say either. They loved on me and hugged me. And I loved them right back.
I was in complete despair. Utter grief overtook my soul. My mother was my prayer warrior. She was the only one in my life who listened to my perils, my hurts, and my complaints. No one else did that for me. And now, she was gone.
Back to counseling I went, but I was numb to it.
There was another family tragedy that befell us just a few months later, but I cannot write about it. Let it be said that I was broken by that point. Was I going out looking for comfort? No. Was I searching for sin? No. But I was numb to everything. I had no purpose. No one understood me and I didn’t think anyone was listening either.
In my last post, I talked about prevention. However, most people who find my site are those who want advice after their pastor has fallen morally.
Please take the time to read the first post in this series because it will give you some insight into my thinking. I’m not an expert in the academic realm. I do have a Master of Divinity, however, it does make me an expert on pastors who fail their congregations. I do, however, have a world of experience on the side of pastors who fall. I have spoken to many pastors who have fallen morally and I am one myself.
Let me begin with this – if you’re a church member who is reading this who is asking, “how can I reconcile with a fallen pastor?” I’m glad you’re here. At least you’re trying. Or if you’re asking, “How can I minister to a fallen pastor?” or “after a pastor falls, how do you forgive him?” I’m happy you’re asking the right questions. You’re far ahead of the curve.
The vast majority of church members are happy to turn the other way, push the fallen pastor to the wayside and let him fall as far as possible. Part of me sees the rationale behind this. I get it. If it were the local architect, plumber, bug guy, or Wal-Mart employee who committed adultery, no one would care.
For that matter, if any of those people were in the church, some uproar would come, but it would settle down quickly.
But much is expected of the pastor. He stands up week after week, strong protector of the Word of God, preaching against the evils of the world, and expected to stand strong against everything that is wrong with society. But then he falls.
Parents have to explain to their children (whom were baptized by that man), members have their hearts broken, relationships are harmed, the pastor’s wife has to be sheltered, and it’s all because the pastor apparently has a sexual issue, right? Of course, few stop to think that there is more to the story. But that is beside the point. He is now an outcast.
What are we to do with this man?
On a rare occasion, there is a deacon, or a church member who asks, “Shouldn’t we love this man? Is he not a sinner like us?” But this is a rare instance. Most of the time, the pastor is cast out.
Those are questions to be dealt with later.
For now, I will insist that early intervention by members of the congregation who are brave, loyal to Christ, and able is absolutely necessary. It has to happen within the first two weeks. Period. Whether it be a member of the church or a close pastor friend, it has to be done. It is absolutely vital.
I’ll get more into why it is vital in the next post. For now, I’m going to propose to you my five stages of pastoral moral failure. It’s not perfect and someone else may want to improve on it. But after talking to a lot of pastoral rejects like myself, I recognized that many pastors go through stages of “grief” after they fail.
If they do not get intervention from pastor friends or church members, it seems very likely to me that they are doomed to fail and slack off into complete moral failure. Even losing their faith. I will discuss in the next post why early intervention is so important.
All of these stages are after the fall.
Stage 1:(Days 1-2) Cautious Defense – Right after the fall, just like any sin, it is easy to want to defend yourself. You want to have a reason to give for what you did. You know that no one will listen to you, so you’re not ready to give reasons for your sin. However, you slink away to whatever corner of the world that will have you. You’re not really ready to repent, but will give the right words for repentance if someone asks. But no one ever does. Because no one wants to talk to you. Everyone is angry.
Stage 2: (Day 3-Week 2) Embarrassment – People begin to find out what you did and the details. They begin to find out the “why” and “what” after talking to your spouse and the people involved. They don’t want to talk to you because they don’t want your side of the story. They are hurt, they are disappointed and they want to push you as far away from them and their family as possible.
As one pastor said to me, “Everyone needs someone to love and someone to hate.” The pastor is who they need to hate. The spouse who has been harmed is who they love. The spouse left behind, regardless of whether they led to the deterioration of the marriage becomes the hero. They can never do any wrong from this point forward. The pastor becomes the goat forever. The fallen pastor, if or when he goes into public, often hangs his head low, avoiding eye contact. This is an awful time.
Stage 3: (Week 3-?) Offensive Defense Against the Perceived Enemy – Anger builds within the pastor. He feels that no one wants to hear his story. The church that he pastored for years will not listen to him, despite the fact that he labored and loved them. He knows he betrayed them, but he needs them to hear his side of the story. He knows his story would fall on deaf ears. However, some in the church will lash out in emails, Facebook messages, text messages, or letters. The pastor becomes like a poisoned frog. He will not seek out church members, but when they contact him, he will respond in anger. Sometimes with passive aggressiveness.
I have several cats. When they eat a toad, the toad coats himself with a semi-poisonous venom. This is a picture of the pastor who feels isolated by the church. He becomes aggressive when attacked directly by those in the church. If they call, email, or Facebook, he will often respond in a negative way and go on the offensive. He has loved them for years, has harmed his church and his wife, but now just wants to be loved as he loved those who sinned when he was pastor. But no love is to come.
Stage 4: The Edge (not to be confused with U2′s guitarist) – This is a horrible place. I have talked to pastors on both sides. It is a place where some turn to drugs, alcohol, and other vices to fill their lives because they fill a void. Others fight through, looking for God in a long struggle. It is an awful time either way. Either way, pastors feel alone, afraid, and like no one is there to help them. They feel as if they have forsaken their God, their calling, and they feel alone. The community of faith they have built up has forsaken them because they sinned. They now feel like they deserve the treatment they are getting from their former church.
Often, they equate their former church to God. Those who do, turn to alcohol or vice. Those who turn to God struggle daily to find good things in life. Either way, it is hard. Many on the outside th
ink that either way, these men deserve the treatment they get. But they don’t. All of these men deserve the grace and forgiveness of God.
Stage 5: Hardening vs. A Second Chance – Those who choose vice often stay there. That is awful. However, some eventually, like the prodigal son, find grace again. Typically, those who choose to harden their hearts find self-hatred and those who seek a second chance find grace and choose to see themselves as God sees them.
In my next blog, I will tell you – the church member – why your love, your forgiveness, your grace, your mercy – early in this process is vital. I did not receive it from my church. I did receive it from a pastor friend. Without it, without the love of Cynthia, without the grace of Christ, I would be lost today.