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Fallen Pastor Radio Interview and Welcome

I was interviewed recently by Mike Bundrant at Natural News Radio. I had a great time talking to him. He was a great guy and we covered a lot of bases. Here’s a link to the press release. You can catch it online or download it as a podcast. If you’re here visiting because you heard it, welcome...

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A Simple Prayer for the Fallen Pastor

Posted by fallenpastor | Posted in brokenness, encouragement, fallenness, forgiveness, holiness, pastors, prayer | Posted on 16-04-2014

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I hear from fallen pastors on a weekly basis. This ministry is a joy because there’s not much out there like it. When I fell phone4four years ago, I felt useless. Now God has transformed my brokenness and allowed me to be useful once again.

When I talk to them on the phone, it’s almost always the same. I can hear the desperation. They sound like I did right after I got caught in my sin. They don’t know me. They don’t know if they can trust me. Then I start talking to them. We trade stories. I tell them there is hope. That Christ does indeed love them. That’s why I’d like to share this with you – it’s something I share with a lot of the men who I talk to. It’s a simple prayer for the fallen pastor.

These men know they have sinned. But there is forgiveness. Will the journey be long as they repent and move forward? Yes. Will it be difficult? Yes.

They always have so many questions. “What do I do about my wife? She’s so angry. She should be. I’ve never seen her this mad.” “What about my children?” “What about the church?” “What am I supposed to do about work?” “I’ve disappointed my parents and my family, what do I do?” “What was I thinking?” “It’s just so hopeless. What am I supposed to think?

The questions are all to familiar. They bring back to me that day when my sin came to light. The day when my sin was exposed. Everyone knew. I deserved the consequences. And all I wanted to do was hide and let the rocks pummel me to death. And as the days and weeks went on it got worse and worse. I wanted to destroy myself and I hated myself.

hopeSo when I get a fallen pastor to talk to me, I know I can offer him hope. The hope that Christ really does love him. He loves us in spite of our sin. I can offer him the knowledge that I love him. Even though he doesn’t know me and I really don’t know him, I just love him because he needs a friend and because we share a common story. I can give him the hope that God takes care of those who repent and despite their sin, they choose to live the next day in a walk toward brokenness and obedience.

There’s always the question, “What do I do about all this stuff going on around me? How can I fix my marriage, my life, my family . . . everything?

I like to tell them to stop worrying about the things they can’t control at the moment. They’ve sinned. There are going to be consequences for the rest of their life. Those are things that they will have to deal with on a daily basis and it’s going to be difficult for a while. I tell them I have a network of people who can help them with all kinds of things. I tell them they’re going to need to start building a group of men who will be strong with them and help restore them back to Christ.

When I share this prayer, it is after I know they’ve asked God for forgiveness and I know they’ve taken the first few simple steps toward repentance. I tell them that asking for forgiveness from God for their adultery isn’t necessary. He’s forgotten it. In fact, if we bring it up to Him, it’s a one way conversation. We’re the ones introducing into the conversation. He’s not.

But I tell them, “What you need right now is the most simple prayer you’ve ever prayed. You could go to God right now and say, ‘God, help my marriage, help my family, help my church, help my finances, help my relationships.’ And that would be okay. He understands that prayer.

But in those first few weeks, I like to remember what Jesus said during the sermon on the mount. He told his followers that our Heavenly Father already knows what we need. Now, that’s obviously not a command to stop praying.

Instead, I like to encourage these men to make their constant prayer a simple one. God needs one thing from them right now. Theyprayer4 are at a crisis moment. And their ministry, life, and marriage fell apart for a simple reason – they lost fellowship with Christ. So I introduce them to a most simple prayer:

Lord, you know the circumstances in my life. What I would like you to do is show me the man you want me to become in all of this. Break my heart, humble me, and turn me into a man who is pleasing to you.

I believe that if we allow God to change who we are – to fix what was broken in the first place – then the rest will fall into place.

Want to leave a comment? Click the “keep reading” button and join the conversation.

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

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

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

A Nauseating Book You’ll Want To Read?

Posted by fallenpastor | Posted in adultery, affair, book, forgiveness, holiness, pastors | Posted on 17-02-2014

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michnaus

This poor guy looks sick and LOST.

I’ve been blessed to be able to minister to all kinds of people for the past four years. After I fell from ministry, I felt pretty worthless. I always knew that God was gracious and could take His people and work things together for good, but I had no idea what He could do with the shattered pieces I had made of my own life.

Here I am, glory be to God, with a ministry that helps fallen pastors and those who are effected by the fall. In the middle of it, I had a book published by Civitas Press – “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World.” Again, God was the reason for everything.

It’s a book for anyone – people who want to learn how to forgive, fallen pastors, churches, leaders, etc. I’ve had a lot of great feedback about how people have been helped by it and how it made them understand things better. But I’ve also heard something over the past few years from a few people that bothered me at first.

A few said, “I found it sickening. I couldn’t get past the first part. You know, where you’re sharing the stories of other pastors who committed adultery. Sin is so sickening.”

I tell the stories of ten other pastors who besides myself, fell from the ministry. I’ve said it once on this blog and I’ll say it again – their/our sin was inexcusable. There were warning signs and things that led up to the adultery, but there was no excuse. The sin and consequences were all ours to bear.

The book has four sections. In the first section, I outline the problem. In the second, I tell the story that keeps repeating itself in fpour society of the fallen pastor. In the third section, I talk about the four most common issues that surround the pastor before he falls and that can serve as warning signs. Finally, in the fourth section, I ask, “How can this be prevented and how can the fallen pastor be restored?

I remember talking to one pastor who read the book. He was very angry with me. He told me how sickening the stories were, how it seemed like I was justifying sin, and how I never took credit for my sin. I was pretty patient with him for a while before I started reading specific sections to him out of the book where I made it clear I wasn’t trying to justify anything. In fact, chapter 18 is pretty damning on the fallen pastor as the consequences of his sin play out.

Those things aside, it is a true statement that sin is nauseating. It is most nauseating to God. As the holiest being in the universe, He is farthest away from it and cannot gaze upon it. The closer we are to Him, the more awful and disgusting sin will be to us. That is why we strive for sanctification and personal holiness. When we don’t, and when we distance ourselves from God, we cannot smell the stench of sin when we wallow around in it for a while.

I’m thankful for the men who shared their stories. Each of us were pastors who sat in a place where we were to rightly divide the word of truth, not just for a congregation, but for ourselves. But each of us sinned. We fell. We proved that we were no mightier than those who came before us and others will fall after us. Each time a pastor falls, the name of King David is invoked, not for the kingdom he built, or the bravery he showed, but for his adultery with Bathsheba and murder of Uriah.

Our stories are published in a book that won’t ever see the top 100 of the New York Times Bestseller List, but they are there. They are common, too common. Like the adultery of David, the disobedience of Moses, the drunkenness of Noah, or any of the sins of God’s people, we stand amongst them in shame. The good we did will never reach the heights of our heroes of old, but our shame will be compared in the same breath.

restorThankfully, there is hope for those of us whose sin is nauseating. It is true that God is totally “other” than sin and separate, but that did not keep Him from sending His Son into this world to save those who are sinners. Who amongst us is a sinner? All of us.

In a moment upon the cross of sin-bearing, in a moment of torture that was most definitely nauseating to the local observer, all that disgusting sin got washed away. Not because we deserved it, but because He graciously desired it.

Yes, there are consequences to sin. Earthly consequences. Church discipline is a reality for leaders, but it should always start with the spirit of Galatians 6:1, “Brothers, restore….” The Spirit of Christ should lead all of us to love as Christ loved the adulterous woman who was accused. His focus was on her, not the angry mob.

And no, those who sin will not always listen to us at first. Their sin may nauseate us. It may sicken us to the core. But what I’ve learned since my fall is that God poured out all His wrath over my sin upon His Son so that He might look upon me again and love me as His child. Behind all that nauseating sin is a person God is reaching out to and has a future for.

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

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

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

Fallen Pastors, Suicide, And Christmas

Posted by fallenpastor | Posted in adultery, brokenness, Christ, christmas, comfort, depression, fallenness, holiness, hurt, pain, pastoring, pastors | Posted on 18-12-2013

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Christmas is a great time of year for a lot of people. Off the top of my head, I can think of three groups of people who it really stinks xmasdepfor. One, those who have seasonal depression. Next, for those who have lost loved ones recently or around the holidays. Finally, for pastors who have recently fallen from the ministry.

I fall in two of those categories and was in the last group four years ago. So, I have a heart for those who don’t always find the holidays very happy.

I know on one side, people will say, “If that minister cheated on his spouse, he should have a miserable holiday.” I admit that consequences will always be there. And when any of us sin, we will always face the consequences of our sin. Thankfully, when we turn to God, we will always find grace as well.

But I do want to discuss this very serious issue of fallen pastors and Christmas. It’s a tough time. My email gets a little busier this time of year. Some pastors cheat, leave their ministry and spouse and something about Christmas snaps them back into reality. Whether it’s the feeling of nostalgia, family, memories, or whatever, they get lonely. They start reflecting on what they had and what they lost.

rockwellThis can lead to one of two things. They can start wondering how they can get it back, or it can lead to a hopeless desperation.

Let’s discuss hopeless desperation first. It seems like the news has reported an increase in fallen pastors committing suicide recently. It’s something I discuss very briefly in my book. It’s not surprising. Most pastors start out with a call from God to enter ministry. With great dreams of fulfilling that call. Somewhere along the way, the pastor allows pride to enter his mind. It is not recognized in his own mind as pride, but it’s there. He allows himself to be put upon a pedestal, become isolated and his marriage becomes worse as he chases a dream that is very different from his call.

Then, the fall comes. He falls so far that he cannot see a way out. He looks at himself in the mirror and wonders where it all went wrong. For some men, the distorted answer is to destroy the person they see in the mirror. It’s happening more and more – or at least it’s being reported more and more. And this is a shame.

Life is not over after a fall from ministry. Life may be different. Life may hurt for a while. But Christ loves you just as much as He did before. And there are many out in this world who know exactly what you’re going through and want to love you, be your friend and help you. So let us.

The next group is those who are waking up to the fact that they did something wrong. For a lot of freshly fallen pastors, we spend a lot of time defending and justifying our actions. And we really think we are right in doing it. But there comes a time for many of us where we start to wake up. It’s like the story of the prodigal son where he is lying among the pigs and “comes to his senses.” It’s that moment. We realize we have sinned against God and that we have to make things right. But there’s a problem. Our marriage is over, we’ve made a ton of people mad, we’ve alienated family, fellow pastors, friends, the community – where do we hypervstart?

And when this happens suddenly, it feels like panic. Awful, dreadful, sickening panic.

I know, I’ve been there. You know what to do? Get on your face before God. Get quiet before Him. Often. And reach out to people who’ve been there. I’m here. Contact me. Contact people who have gone down that path. Call a pastor you trust who won’t just give you a bunch of clichés. Talk to someone who will put you on a path to restoration.

And for those of you fallen pastors who have made it this far for a few years, rejoice. God has plans for you. I’m not even sure if this is an appropriate illustration, but I’m going to use it. I was listening to a podcast about how paganism got mixed up with the Christian version of Christmas (I can’t back the veracity of that statement). Apparently, the pagans would have such harsh winters, they would celebrate it by saying, “Nature is trying to kill us by this horrible winter, but it hasn’t, so let’s decorate a tree and gorge ourselves on some food to celebrate that we’re still alive.”

ps116I’m not condoning that part, but for those of you men who have fallen years ago, listen here. You’re still drawing air. You’ve repented and are hopefully walking a path of holiness. The worst is behind you. Celebrate the grace of God – we’re still alive and He’s not done with us yet!

This holiday season doesn’t have to be a time of utter desolation for fallen pastors. It can be a time for a restart – a new life. It can also be a new beginning. If you’re on the brink, my contact info is below. Anything you say to me is confidential. I’m not here to judge you. I’m not here to call you names or tell you what a horrible person you are. I’m here to listen and love you.

Whether you’re a fallen pastor, fallen pastor’s wife, a church that has had a fallen pastor, friend or family member of a fallen pastor, associational leader, or anyone who needs help, please reach out and don’t think you’re alone.

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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 Danger of this Website

Posted by fallenpastor | Posted in adultery, affair, Allison, forgiveness, Hershael York, holiness, marriage, pastors, relationships, temptation | Posted on 23-08-2013

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RAY-1I love my ministry to fallen pastors. Not a week goes by that I don’t get an email from a man who has fallen and needs help. Whether it’s a man who has fallen from ministry, a church whose pastor who has fallen or a wife whose husband has fallen. I put everything I have into helping them.

But I need to make sure something is absolutely clear.

When I fell four years ago, I fell in love with a woman who was a member of my congregation. She was my wife’s best friend. You can read all about it in my book. We are now married. The details are all there. It is in the past. God has forgiven that sin. We have moved on.

Here is my concern, though. I don’t want people coming here thinking I will condone the sin of adultery. I will not. In my book, with the help of my friend Hershael York, I mark out the stages a fallen pastor goes through. In my experience, all fallen pastors go through these stages in some degree: Justification, Anger, Fighting against God, Defensiveness, Repentance, Brokenness and Restoration. There are many more stages, but if you really want to know what a pastor goes through and how he got there, the book is required reading.

What I don’t want is fallen pastors coming here and thinking that I’m going to tell them that adultery is okay. It’s not.

Let me tell you what happened to me. After my former wife and I had a breaking point and discovered that restoration between us was not going to happen (for a myriad of reasons – many of them my own fault), I still had to face God.

It was a weekday. I was months after my fall. I was angry at people for not accepting me for what had happened and the fact that they had not forgiven me. I was justifying my lifestyle.

One night, in despair, grief, and in shame over what I had done, God spoke to me. This is very typical for fallen pastors affairwho come to a place of repentance and recovery. I can’t exactly tell you what happened. Nor can the other men who I have talked to who have committed adultery. What I can tell you is this – remember when Jonah ran from God? He had him swallowed by a giant fish.

When a pastor sins, God is patient, but he will find you. He will break you down to your sinful heart and demand you listen to him. That happened to me. It was very personal. For other fallen pastors I have spoken to, it was very personal for them as well. It was the day that I began my walk back on the road to holiness. It was the day I stopped blaming everyone else for my problems and started saying, like David, “Against you, God, and you alone, have I sinned.”

It was a devastating experience.

But it had to happen. Immediately after it happened, God showed me grace. Grace like I have never known. I was lifted out of the dungeon of guilt, despair and self-inflicted wounds and made whole again. He made me worthy of a child of His. Why? I don’t know. I guess because He’s God. But also because He is full of love and grace.

Pastors, I want to share with you a quote from my book that Dr. York gave to me about women we are tempted by:

“Every time you have an affair with anybody, I don’t care who you are, in a sense, you’re having an affair with a fantasy and not a real person. Because the person you’ve got to pay the mortgage with, deal with the kids’ soccer schedule with, the one whose vomit you wipe up when they’re sick, that’s the real person you live with. Twenty minutes in the sack on a Tuesday afternoon is really not love. You’ve got to tell yourself that. You’ve got to awaken yourself to the fact that it’s fantasy. If you end up with the person you had an affair with, I guarantee you once you get married you have to face the same issues and same struggles. You cannot take two totally depraved human beings, stick them in the same house and not have friction.”

The affair is a mystical journey you go on. It’s when you find someone who understands you for who you are. It’s someone who understands you for who you are. It’s someone who understands you better than your wife or your congregation. At the end of it, though, you will find yourself with another wife, if that’s how it ends up.

adulteryGuess what? If you don’t fix what was wrong with YOU in your first marriage, you won’t succeed in your second. I read a statistic once that only 2% of marriages built upon affairs last. Yup.

Let me make something clear. My wife Allison and I are wonderfully happy. But we are not the standard. Guess what the standard is? Choosing a wife who God leads you to and making it work out.

I fear many people come to me wanting me to tell them that adultery is okay. It’s not. It is a sin. It is grievous to God. It is outside the laws of God and it is sin. “But Ray, you did it.” Yeah, and I will pay the consequences for it for the rest of my life.

Do I love my wife? Absolutely. Do we have tough days? Sure. Do we pay consequences? You better believe it. But listen, pastor: Running off with someone else is not the cure. Understand that there are factors that are making you look in the first place – church conflict, poor relationship with your spouse, people placing too high expectations upon you, isolation, etc.

Don’t go looking or have a relationship with a woman unexpectedly show up to cure your ills. Get me? There are men who are happy, sure. Like me. But we are not the Scriptural standard by which you should measure your life by. Wake up and allow God to do a work in your life.

I am here to help you. Night or day. Leave a comment with your contact information – I won’t post it. I will contact you. Or email me by clicking here. There is a dangerous culture out there that is looking to feed upon your soul and the soul of your family. Please get help. Please. Let me and people I know help.

Is Anyone Qualified To Pastor? The Forest of 1 Timothy 3:1-7

Posted by fallenpastor | Posted in Christianity, church, churches, expectations, fallenness, holiness, judgment, leadership, ministry, pastoring, pastors, restoration, theology | Posted on 22-03-2013

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I’ve written about whether fallen pastors should be allowed to return to the pulpit. Some fallen pastors reconcile with pulpit2their wives, some are unable to. I’ve seen men go through a process of repentance and return to a lifestyle of holiness and return to ministry.

Each time I blog about it, I mention the verses in 1 Timothy 3:1-7, Paul’s qualification for an overseer in the church. Among the qualifications, an overseer must be “above reproach, husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent, not quarrelsome, manage his household well, keep his children submissive, not be a recent convert, and be thought of well by outsiders.”

Tough list. But I think when we approach this passage, we’re missing the forest for the trees. It gets broken down into each individual characteristic. And that’s important. But we forget that basically, this is a letter from Paul to Timothy. And what is Paul doing? Answering a question on how the church should be organized and how leaders should be selected. More on that later.

I hear one comment a lot, “Well, by that list, no one could ever be a church leader. None of us is perfect.” The logic often follows that since no one could keep any of those things, the list isn’t a hard and fast list of rules. They aren’t suggestions, but a lifestyle to be maintained over the course of one’s ministry.

I suppose that there are two extremes to this. The first extreme is that no one should pastor. No one is perfect. A lot of pastors attempt to keep a perfect image, but we are all sinners. The other extreme is that anyone can pastor, regardless of sin, ongoing or repentant.

One of my guilty little pleasures is to visit my blog stats every day and find out how people found my site. It’s interesting to look at some of the search terms. Recently I saw someone searched, “My pastor is texting my wife late at night.” Another, “Can a convicted felon be a pastor?” Those are some intriguing situations.

One of the statistics I quote in my book is that in a survey of conservative ministers. 30% of them said they had either mancomputbeen in an ongoing affair or a one-time sexual encounter with a parishioner. And it hadn’t been reported or caught. Add on top of that what seems to be a rampant amount of pornography use by ministers and there is a serious problem lurking in the hearts of ministers today.

If the list is a hard and fast pattern of rules that once broken, disqualify people for ministry, then a lot of people are disqualified. Right now. Anyone who has lost control, not been hospitable or become violent is out. They can be mixed in with the adulterous, those who can’t keep their children in control and those who are deemed in the category, “husband of one wife.” (And that depends on who you ask. Those can be divorced men before or after becoming Christians, the single, etc.)

If a pastor has a serious, unconfessed sin and is ministering and a church holds fast to the strict interpretation of 1 Timothy 3:1-7, then I would argue that a tremendous amount of our pulpits should be vacant next week. Heck, take a look at the man’s kids. If they aren’t submissive to him, then he should be taking a sabbatical or be dismissed immediately.

Panic yet?

I don’t think those verses are an ultra-strict mandate for ministers. If that’s the case, ministry leaders across the country are in serious trouble. For all of the ministers whose sin is discovered, I’d be daring enough to say that the hidden sin is twofold.

So why this list? Is it merely a suggestion? I don’t think that’s appropriate either. Surely we don’t want rampant sin from our church leaders. We should hold our leaders to a higher moral standard. We should expect them to be hospitable, to not commit adultery, to not be violent. Right?

treesI think we get into trouble when we take these verses and make them into something they were never meant to be. When we emphasize parts of them with great vigor but lessen the overall picture. The church is greatest served when we imagine ourselves sitting across from Paul as he addresses Timothy and Paul answers the question, “So, what kind of church leader should we be looking for?” That way, we can see the forest for the trees.

Can you imagine it for a moment? “Hey, Paul, what kind of leaders should we be getting?” “Well, Timothy, for sure, you need overseers who are husbands of one wife.” “Wait, Paul. Do you mean by that they can’t be previously divorced or single?” “Timothy, listen. What did I say? I’m trying to give you some simple rules for leadership. Look around you. You have some people in churches who are going to the pagan temple and engaging in prostitution. So, I think being the husband of one wife is pretty simple.”

In our time, maybe we don’t allow enough humanity from our leaders. We place them on a higher pedestal than they should be. We don’t see them as completely human. When they err, we are shocked. I’m not talking about major sins, I’m speaking of just daily interaction. Do we place them under too much pressure? The Barna Group suggests that pastors are expected to juggle 16 major tasks at once.

And with this list, I think there’s a reason ministers should be mentored and trained. There’s a reason all of us are living the continued process of sanctification. All of us are growing in holiness. Any pastor worth his salt will admit that he made mistakes early on that he wouldn’t make today due to pride or ignorance. But that’s part of the growing process.

Sin is not to be taken lightly. The men who aspire to it should know that much is expected. But an over-eager application of 1 Timothy 3 isn’t going to help anyone. It will increase judgment and self-righteousness among the believers. What we should be doing is living in grace and an expectation of holiness, mentoring and discipling one another. Knowing that all of our work will be going to serve Christ and glorify what He is doing in the world.

Are Christians Allowed To Enjoy Life Following A Major Sin?

Posted by fallenpastor | Posted in adultery, blessings, brokenness, compassion, divorce, fallenness, forgiveness, grace, holiness, jesus, judgment, ministry, pastors, preachers, restoration | Posted on 20-03-2013

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I’ve got a fallen pastor friend that I’ve grown close to. I don’t think he reads my blog, but I hope he does. He has gone through some of the same issues I went through three and a half years ago when I fell from ministry when I committed adultery.

He fell a while back from his place of ministry. He called several months ago and we had a conversation I won’t forget:pastph

Him: “I know you’ll be able to identify with me on this. At least I think you will. You’re the only one who seems to understand what I’m going through.”

Me: “Go for it.”

Him: “Since my wife and I divorced a while back, I’ve been seeing someone. Everything is going great, you know? I feel like despite everything, life is good. I couldn’t work things out with my wife. We tried, but we moved on. I have been working things out with God. I’m cautiously seeing this woman. I’m part of a church and that’s going well. But…”

Me: “Let me guess. You feel like the bottom is about to drop out because you don’t think you should be happy.”

Him: “How did you know?”

Me: “You said you thought I’d understand because I’d been there before.”

Him: “That’s right. It’s been a long road and I know I have a long way to go still. I don’t believe in karma, but I can’t put my finger on what it is. It’s like I’m waiting on the other shoe to drop. It’s like I don’t deserve to be happy after what I’ve put everyone else through. Like I don’t deserve to feel this good. It’s almost like God is out there waiting to punish me or put me down the second things really start going.”

Me: “I know exactly what you feel. But I need you to do something. Take a deep breath for a moment and listen. What you’re feeling is normal. But what you’re feeling comes from several places.

“First, guilt. I know you’re still working things out with God. You have a long way to go with the sin you committed. God is still working on you and I know He’s forgiven you, but you still have to reconcile that to yourself. You still have a lot of guilt stored up. You don’t feel like you deserve anything good after you cheated on your wife and hurt an entire congregation, right?”

guiltHim: “Yeah, you’re right.”

Me: “Next, your view of God has suffered a little. In fact, it may not have ever been exactly right. Mine never was. A lot of people see God as some dude up in heaven ready to strike us down the second we get a little bit happy. Worse, we see him as a cosmic killjoy.

“I’ve told you before about how much John 8 and the story of the woman caught in adultery means to me. She was taken to Jesus and they were ready to stone her. Jesus sent them away and He did not judge her. What did He say to her after that? ‘Is anyone left to condemn you?’ I would ask you the same question, friend. If you’ve reconciled to God, is anyone left to condemn you?

Him: “No.”

Me: “No one can stand as your judge if you are forgiven by the judge of all mankind. Only God can know that. And what does Jesus say next to her? ‘Then go and sin no more.’ Listen, Christ sees our flaws, took those sins and sacrificed Himself for them. We are, indeed, awful, wretched people. But He loves us. And thank God for that. But we are free from those sins when we are forgiven, right?”

Him: “Right. We are, but it’s difficult.”

Me: “Sure it is. Both me and my wife Allison still, at times, feel like we don’t deserve anything good in life. After we committed adultery, after I hurt an entire church, hurt my ex-wife, disappointed a community, hurt my family, I didn’t feel like I ever deserved to be happy again. And still those feelings come up once and again. But Christ doesn’t withhold His blessings from me. Do I still suffer consequences because of my sin? Sure. But I have been made pure by Christ and He no longer holds my sin against me.”

Him: “You’re right, but it’s still a struggle for me.”

Me: “And it will be. It should be. It takes time. Broken relationships with people take a long time to heal. Work on your sinrelationship with God. Live a life pleasing to Him. Work on the relationships you have that are good. When you have a chance to make things right with people, do it. Say kind words to those you have hurt. Let them see the progress Christ is making in your soul. It happens, just not overnight.”

Him: “It does take time. Thank you.”

Me: “We can sin in a moment, but coming back from it can take a very long time. But Christ is worth it. And I promise you, He wants us to be happy in His will and the life He has for us. Enjoy the life before you. Don’t spend time worrying about the sin behind you that He has forgiven. Mend those broken relationships when you can. But embrace the gracious future.”

But then again, there’s always a dissenting opinion:

5 Reasons People Won’t Forgive: When I’m Sorry Isn’t Enough, Pt. 2

Posted by fallenpastor | Posted in apology, forgiveness, grace, holiness, humillity, hurt, reconciliation, relationships, repentance | Posted on 12-03-2013

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"Apology accepted, Captain Needa."

“Apology accepted, Captain Needa.”

I don’t know about you, but I mess up. A lot. And in my life, I’ve found myself asking for forgiveness more than once. But when I fell from ministry, it took me a while to get to a place where my heart was right enough to ask forgiveness in the right manner. I blogged about that a little last time.

I’d like to focus on why people fail to forgive, even though a heartfelt and repentant apology is offered. It’s a difficult thing to face, especially when you’ve taken the time to face your demons, approach someone with humility and say those two words, “I’m sorry.” But I might point out – if you find yourself angry if someone withholds forgiveness, your heart still might not be in the right place. But that’s a topic for later.

So let’s get to a few reasons why people withhold forgiveness:

1. They want you to jump through more hoops.

So there you are. You’ve committed a sin and people have been hurt. You’ve reconciled to God, gotten help, and done what you can to make restitution (if you’ve broken laws). You approach someone you’ve hurt and ask for forgiveness. They say, “No. You still aren’t fully repentant.” Then, they add a few caveats to what would make you more repentant: talking to their pastor, church attendance every Sunday, an attitude change that they haven’t seen yet, etc.

What are you supposed to do?

First, take their response graciously. They could be right. Maybe you haven’t been the most humble. Maybe you have neglected something. Give their point of view a chance. After you have, then explain to them with all love the steps you have taken and how God has forgiven you. Tell them about how deep the grace of God is, how you’ve been humbled by the decisions you made and how great the love of God is.

If you’re still there holding the bag and they don’t understand or are unwilling to forgive, then show grace. Agree to disagree and maybe meet at a later time.

I said in the last blog I’d say something particular about adultery. I’ve blogged about it before and here is the link. It is my belief that no one is beyond rescue. No one is beyond the grace of God. If someone comes to us asking to be forgiven, who are we to refuse if they have shown humility and have been forgiven by God? Don’t add something that is beyond the work of God to what they need to do.

2. They have been hurt in their past.

Some people won’t forgive because the sin you committed was committed by someone in their past close to them. When pasthyou did it, it just opened up a huge wound for them. That old wound was never closed and they see that sin as unforgivable. Your chances of being forgiven by them? Not very good. How were you supposed to know? You weren’t.

This is one of those things that you just trust God to work out. Sometimes we come across unforgiving people and just wonder, “Why are they like that?” This is one of the reasons. Keep it in mind and know that God is at work in the hearts of people. Don’t judge people when they withhold forgiveness. Just love, understand and move on.

3. They are currently committing the same sin.

Similar to #2, but slightly different. They will lash out at you for whatever you did, but they are secretly doing the same thing. It’s pretty common. Those who are involved in a sin will be harsh critics of that sin. And similar to #2, God will work it out.

4. They are still hurt and not ready to forgive.

This one can be tough for people. We think that just because we are ready to say the words, “I’m sorry,” that someone should be ready to forgive. Well, it doesn’t always work that way. When we hurt someone, we don’t always understand the degree to which we’ve hurt them. And it’s selfish of us to think we do.

Sometimes, people need time alone with their hurt. Sometimes they need to pray. Sometimes they need counseling. Sometimes they just need time. Give it to them. Don’t rush them. Don’t bombard them with, “You know, I asked for forgiveness and the Bible says you’re supposed to give it to me.” Don’t guilt them into forgiving you because it’s not right or natural.

Give people space and time. It’s the gracious thing to do.

sorry5. They are right not to, because your apology wasn’t honest.

Here’s another one that’s tough. Sometimes people may see in you a lack of repentance. They see a lack of humility. And they might call you out on it. They should do it in love and compassion. When you ask for forgiveness, don’t react harshly if they do this. Listen.

And if they want to talk about it and you don’t think you can handle it, go to a mediator. Someone you both trust and will listen to. Maybe you both have a point.

Forgiveness is worth working for. It’s worth being humble for. It’s worth the hard work and difficulty. There are probably about a thousand points I’ve left out. If you think of any, feel free to make a comment on this blog and list one. As a community of faith, that’s why we’re here. To help each other out.

And, as always, if you’re struggling with anything, please feel free to contact me. If I can’t help you, I probably know someone who can.

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.

When “I’m Sorry” Isn’t Enough, Part 1

Posted by fallenpastor | Posted in anger, apology, bitterness, compassion, forgiveness, holiness, humillity, hurt, repentance | Posted on 08-03-2013

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sorrywmHave you ever been in a situation where you’ve either directly or indirectly wronged someone and come to the point where you knew it was time to say, “I’m sorry“?

It’s not easy to ask for forgiveness. It is the right thing to do and it takes humility and the right heart.

I deal with fallen pastors a lot. I’m a fallen pastor myself. Those who fall from ministry hurt a lot of people. Usually, our first apologies are insincere and riddled with defensiveness and self-justification. But eventually, we come around when we are humbled by God and do offer a sincere, “I’m sorry.”

But it’s not just fallen pastors who ask for forgiveness. All of us find ourselves in need of forgiveness from someone we know. Whether it was a harsh word we spoke, an action we took, something foolish we said and we didn’t mean to, an act that caused harm, or any number of things – we all will end up saying those two words at some point, and hopefully in the right way.

For the next few blog posts, I’d like to focus on the idea of when “I’m sorry” isn’t enough. The idea that when we approach someone to ask for forgiveness and they withhold it from us.

Today, I’d like to focus on those of us who ask for forgiveness. Let’s look at a few things that might impact us before or during our act of asking someone to forgive us.

1. Our repentance

When we sin, the first place we should go and ask forgiveness is to God. God requires us to be holy before Him. We are to repent and walk in holiness. Am I saying we are to be perfect? Nope. I am saying that whatever stage we are in past our sin, we are willing to toss it aside and cast it before God, asking Him for help.

Read more after the jump below . . .

Jesus Took My Scarlet Letter and Stomped On It

Posted by fallenpastor | Posted in adultery, forgiveness, God, guilt, holiness, judgment, repentance, scarlet letter, sin | Posted on 06-02-2013

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arkI remember the day I got my Scarlet Letter. You don’t need to know the details. There’s enough about it in my blog history or my book.

For the first week or so, I thought about the fact that I had committed adultery. By the time I had gotten to the act of it, my heart had already hardened to the degree that it hadn’t mattered. The relationship between myself and my wife had been sour for years. In my book, I talk about how most fallen pastors have a terrible relationship with their wife before they commit adultery.

I was ready to get out of ministry. Most fallen pastors are. They are tired of conflict, interpersonal turmoil and dealing with difficult people. I wanted out. I loved Allison too. That made a huge difference.

But I don’t know how to describe the day that I first felt the sting of sin. The fact that there was a definite mark on my soul. In fact, it was like it was there on my skin. For everyone to see. But no one could. No one knew my sin. I had been able to hide it from everyone. But it didn’t take long for it to be discovered.

Read more after the jump…

Rejoice! God Is Not Like Us!

Posted by fallenpastor | Posted in anger, commandments, compassion, forgiveness, God, grace, holiness, hope, mercy | Posted on 01-02-2013

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emailangI get some interesting emails from time to time. Most of them are from pastors who need help, others are from people who thank me for things I’ve written.

Then, I’ll get some from people who lash out at me for different reasons. I won’t say that I don’t take it seriously, but I don’t take it personally. What I will say is that most of the time, people write something like, “You are an unrepentant person. God doesn’t forgive people like you. You will spend eternity separated from him and you are living a lie.”

Stuff like that makes me sad. But more than that, it makes me reflect on how weak all of us are. It’s no secret about how judgmental I used to be before I fell from the ministry. When I was a pastor, I was very hard on sin. Yes, we should point out sin from the pulpit, but we shouldn’t be so hard on people that we become the judge. I did that at times.

I used to get to the point where I would take joy in thinking, “That person is going to hell because they aren’t repenting of the sin of living together/alcohol/adultery/not coming to church. Good. Let God judge them.

After my fall, after my descent into the darkest pit I ever found, I learned better. I met a different God. He’s not like that at all. Does God judge sin? Yes. Does He separate Himself from it? Absolutely.

Before my fall, I saw God as somewhat of a vengeful figure, sitting in heaven, waiting to jump on our every sin, finger on angrygodthe button, waiting to nuke us at every wrong move. As an extension of that, I was a pastor and my job was to go after people who were sinning greatly, pointing out their sins, warning them that if they didn’t straighten up, they were in serious, serious trouble.

I don’t know where I learned this view of God, but it was wrong. What made it wrong is that it wasn’t tied to the revealed nature of Christ as Savior. It was not coupled with compassion at all. In fact, it wasn’t even paired with what I knew to be true of God’s love, compassion and longsuffering in Scripture. I had a God who was a jerk. My God looked amazingly like me.

At the time, I had a short temper, was very impatient with people and wanted results right then. (Some argue not much has changed). Actually, a lot has changed. After my fall, I learned that God was always right there with me. Was He happy with my sin? No. But He was patient, not desiring that I should perish, but that I should turn to Him.

What if in that pit I was in, what if while I was in that place similar to the prodigal son, God had decided to treat me like I had treated others?

He would have said, “Ray, repent now. I mean now. You’ve sinned. You did something you knew you shouldn’t have done. You’ve got about 24 hours to do it. You have no idea how much my anger burns against you.”

I was so miserable and in so much confusion I wouldn’t have. My 24 hour time limit would have come and gone. Then, if God had been acting like me, He would have come back and said, “Time’s up. You’re done. Grace has been forever removed from you. You’ll never have a chance at repentance, grace or my love again.”

tentheThankfully, God is not like me. Or any of us.

I’m not going to get terribly theological in this post. The old me would have, but the new me is not going to. However, I would like to run something by you. God hands Moses the Ten Commandments. The ten basic guidelines of how to treat God and neighbor.

Fast forward the timeline to King David. David is a man after God’s own heart. He’s a good King, a good dude and God shows favor on him. Problem – David has concubines, wives, commits adultery. He even commits conspiracy for murder to cover up his adultery. Has God suspended His law just for King David? No, absolutely not. Does God allow David to see the consequences for his actions? Yes.

Is God longsuffering in His punishment towards David and gracious at the same time? You bet. Do we find David as an ancestor to Christ? Yes.

What are we to make of this? Is God unjust in not exacting immediate punishment as He did with Ananias and Sapphira in the book of Acts when they were struck down immediately for their lies? Are Christians today not justified when they want fellow Christians or people struck down for sins immediately when they occur?

On a daily, weekly, and monthly basis, I observe Christian behavior that is very un-God like. And I’m guilty of it. Christians who withhold forgiveness. Say very unChristian things to one another. Refuse to help those in need. Talk poorly about others. Talk down to others. What if God did that to us?

We would be in very serious trouble.

But He does none of those things. And thanks be to God. He lavishes His grace and love upon us even while we are sinners. We deserve none of the love He gives, but He shows it to us. And in the ultimate show of grace, He sacrificed His Son so that we might live.

He is patient while we sin. He waits for us to come back to Him. When we sin, He allows us to suffer the consequences. But He waits on His children. Does that give us license to sin? Absolutely not. But it does let us know that God will not give up on His people.

Better yet, we are not to think that God acts like those who call themselves His followers. He is best known to us by His greasespotSon, Christ. He did come to redeem us, save us and show us how to live. Did Christ call out the hypocrites? Yes, He did.

In the end, I think it’s best to let God be God. It’s His universe. His justice, His grace, His plan. He is perfect in all things. We all deserve to be given the worst punishment for sin, but we are not. I should be a grease spot on the pavement, but I am thankful that I am not. I thank Him that He is longsuffering and patient. I thank Christ that He stood by me as He did the adulterous woman in John 8.

As a final thought, it’s great that God is not like us. We do share some common traits, the theologians say. But be happy that God exerts His love, mercy, judgment, grace and all else perfectly and without sin. And that He does so with perfection and with His perfect plan in mind.

__________________

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.