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Jesus Took My Scarlet Letter and Stomped On It

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, brokenness, fallenness, forgiveness, jesus, sin | Posted on 23-04-2014

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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 troubled for a long time. In my book, I talk about how most fallen pastors have a terrible relationship with their wife before they commit adultery (I also give statistics on how the ministry can have disastrous effects on a marriage).

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. Are those excuses for sin? Nope. But pastors can face extreme circumstances that can lead them to a dangerous place if they aren’t aware of them or know how to deal with stress.

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.

When my scarlet letter was revealed, it soon became a mark of ridicule, shame, guilt and public disgrace.

There he goes! What would your mother have thought? You are such a hypocrite! Your poor wife! Look what you’ve hesterdone to her and your family! You are such a terrible person!

I sank so low. Because what they were saying hit so close to home. I couldn’t keep my head up in public. When I walked out in grocery stores, department stores or anywhere, I kept my head down. I didn’t want to make eye contact with anyone, fearing that I might see scorn in someone’s eye. I deserved it all. It was the consequence of my sin.

This is typical for a fallen pastor. I deleted my Facebook account because I was getting threats, nasty messages and angry notes. I responded to some of them in anger, to my shame.

Did I repent? Did I run to God? No. I thought, and just for anonymous examples: “Why should I be branded with a great red ‘A’ on my body? I know the sins of people in my church and they are just as bad! Why not a ‘G‘ for gossip? Why not a ‘I‘ for illegitimate child? Why not a ‘T‘ for thief? Why not a ‘D‘ for drug addict? How about an ‘L‘ for living together?I wrongly pointed my judgment outward instead of inward. I was angry.

Instead of repentance, I wanted to throw down hatred toward the people who were judging me. How dare they? They were sinners like me! They had no right! And worse, they were making me out to be the biggest sinner in recent memory. I got angrier. More bitter. Defensive. I got more detached from God.

I knew full well that there was a blood red A for adultery on my chest for everyone to see. But instead of repentance, I responded with an angry attitude of, “Come look at it! Here it is! But make sure you check your sins at the door!”

That was not the right attitude. It was sinful. I see that now.

This is the best example of longsuffering I could find. Apologies to Cubs fans.

This is the best example of longsuffering I could find. Apologies to Cubs fans.

Where was God during this time? Thankfully, He had not given up on me. He was patient, longsuffering and forgiving. But He also was getting ready to deal with me in His own way. Eventually, He pointed me to Scripture. In His time, He showed me that I had sinned greatly. I had fallen. I was responsible for my sin. No one else was. Just me.

I remember the day that happened. I opened my bible to John 8, the passage where Jesus encounters the adulterous woman. That day, that woman had no other friend but Christ. On the day that He finally broke and humbled me, I had no other friend but Christ.

The “A” that was emblazoned on my chest, my soul, my heart was weighing heavy. I didn’t think I would ever escape it. When people looked at me, I could see that they saw an adulterous pastor. At least, I could see that they were disappointed in me. They felt sorry for me. They felt I would never be the same or whole again.

In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s book, Hester Prynne takes time to embellish the Scarlet Letter she is bound to wear in public. She makes it part of her daily dress. She makes no shame of it while the townspeople scorn her. But the good news is, we don’t have to embellish our sin and make it part of us. We can be free from it.

The day that I finally listened to God, the day that I turned my heart back to him after my sin, He made me whole. He ripped that “A” off my soul. He took it and cast it as far as the east is from the west. I learned that if anyone remembers that sin, it is me. That day, He took that Scarlet Letter that I had acquired because of my sin – it was all mine for the bearing and it was all my fault – Jesus took my Scarlet Letter and stomped on it.

And if anyone holds that sin against me to this day, it is me. People in my community still talk about it, still look at me in shame and disgust, but they are not God. The person who reminds me of it the most is me. I seem to be the one who, in my deepest anxiety cries out, “Lord, I don’t deserve your grace, I deserve death. I committed adultery. I lied, cheated and tore people apart!” His response? “I stomped on that a long time ago. You go live. Sin no more.”

scarletNo one, not even God, can hold me accountable for that Scarlet Letter on judgment day. Christ bore that sin at Calvary. It pains me to no end to know that He had to bear the punishment for my sin upon Him for the sin that I committed. My sin cost Him pain.

In the end, though, there is no longer an “A” to be seen. No mark on my soul. No mark on my sin. No mark to be embroidered on my wife or myself. We have been forgiven by a kind and true Savior. Anyone who desires to hold us culpable must first go to the truest Judge in the universe.

The Scarlet Letter has been ripped from my soul by my savior. When I imagine it might be there, it is miraculously gone. When people look at me like some kind of leper, or imagine they see a bright, shining “A“, they are mistaken. It is only a figment of their imagination. They are free to look me all over, only to find nothing but the righteousness of Christ. It is all because of Christ’s painful, solemn, redeeming work at the cross.

Something I will never get over. Something I never fully understood before I fell from ministry.

The best news I have is this – if you have sinned, you have hope. Cast your sins upon the lawmaker, the lawgiver, and the one who has satisfied us from the bounds of sin. What more could we ask? Once you repent and walk in the way of holiness, you are free forever. It’s not a trick, it’s freedom that our heavenly father gives us. Walk in it.

Let him erase that terrible mark. He does not desire guilt for His children. He desires our freedom.

Walk in it.

I 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.

When my scarlet letter was revealed, it soon became a mark of ridicule, shame, guilt and public disgrace.

There he goes! What would your mother have thought? You are such a hypocrite! Your poor wife! Look what you’ve hesterdone to her and your family! You are such a terrible person!

I sank so low. Because what they were saying hit so close to home. I couldn’t keep my head up in public. When I walked out in grocery stores, department stores or anywhere, I kept my head down. I didn’t want to make eye contact with anyone, fearing that I might see scorn in someone’s eye.

This is typical for a fallen pastor. I deleted my Facebook account because I was getting threats, nasty messages and angry notes. I responded to some of them in anger, to my shame.

Did I repent? Did I run to God? No. I thought, and just for anonymous examples: “Why should I be branded with a great red ‘A’ on my body? I know the sins of people in my church and they are just as bad! Why not a ‘G‘ for gossip? Why not a ‘I‘ for illegitimate child? Why not a ‘T‘ for thief? Why not a ‘D‘ for drug addict? How about an ‘L‘ for living together?” I pointed my judgment outward instead of inward. I was angry.

Instead of repentance, I wanted to throw down hatred toward the people who were judging me. How dare they? They were sinners like me! They had no right! And worse, they were making me out to be the biggest sinner in recent memory. I got angrier. More bitter. Defensive. I got more detached from God.

I knew full well that there was a blood red A for adultery on my chest for everyone to see. But instead of repentance, I responded with an angry attitude of, “Come look at it! Here it is! But make sure you check your sins at the door!”

That was not the right attitude. It was sinful. I see that now.

Where was God during this time? Thankfully, He had not given up on me. He was patient, longsuffering and forgiving. But He also was getting ready to deal with me in His own way.Eventually, he pointed me to Scripture. In His time, He showed me that I had sinned greatly. I had fallen. I was responsible for my sin. No one else was. Just me. I remember the day that happened. I opened my bible to John 8, the passage where Jesus encounters the adulterous woman. That day, that woman had no other friend but Christ. On the day that I finally broke, I had no other friend but Christ.

The “A” that was emblazoned on my chest, my soul, my heart was weighing heavy. I didn’t think I would ever escape it. When people looked at me, I could see that they saw an adulterous pastor. At least, I could see that they were disappointed in me. They felt sorry for me. They felt I would never be the same or whole again.

In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s book, Hester Prynne takes time to embellish the Scarlet Letter she is bound to wear in public. She makes it part of

This is the best example of longsuffering I could find. Apologies to Cubs fans.

This is the best example of longsuffering I could find. Apologies to Cubs fans.

her daily dress. She makes no shame of it while the townspeople scorn her. But the good news is, we don’t have to embellish our sin and make it part of us. We can be free from it.

The day that I finally listened to God, the day that I turned my heart back to him after my sin, He made me whole. He ripped that “A” off my soul. He took it and cast it as far as the east is from the west. I learned that if anyone remembers that sin, it is me. That day, He took that Scarlet Letter that I had acquired because of my sin – it was all mine for the bearing and it was all my fault – and He stomped on it.

And if anyone holds that sin against me to this day, it is me. People in my community still talk about it, still look at me in shame and disgust, but they are not God. The person who reminds me of it the most is me. I seem to be the one who, in my deepest anxiety cries out, “Lord, I don’t deserve your grace, I deserve death. I committed adultery. I lied, cheated and tore people apart!” His response? “I stomped on that a long time ago. You go live. Sin no more.”

scarletNo one, not even God, can hold me accountable for that Scarlet Letter on judgment day. Christ bore that sin at Calvary. It pains me to no end to know that He had to bear the punishment for my sin upon Him for the sin that I committed. My sin cost Him pain.

In the end, though, there is no longer an “A” to be seen. No mark on my soul. No mark on my sin. No mark to be embroidered on my wife or myself. We have been forgiven by a kind and true Savior. Anyone who desires to hold us culpable must first go to the truest judge in the universe.

The Scarlet Letter has been ripped from my soul by my savior. When I imagine it might be there, it is miraculously gone. When people look at me like some kind of leper, or imagine they see a bright, shining “A“, they are mistaken. It is only a figment of their imagination. They are free to look me all over, only to find nothing but the righteousness of Christ. It is all because of Christ’s painful, solemn, redeeming work at the cross.

Something I will never get over. Something I never fully understood before I fell from ministry.

The best news I have is this – if you have sinned, you have hope. Cast your sins upon the lawmaker, the lawgiver, and the one who has satisfied us from the bounds of sin. What more could we ask? Once you repent and walk in the way of holiness, you are free forever. It’s not a trick, it’s freedom that our heavenly father gives us. Walk in it.

Let him erase that terrible mark. He does not desire guilt for His children. He desires our freedom.

Walk in it.

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.

 

A Monument For Satan? We Already Have One

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in compassion, current events, gospel, jesus, sin | Posted on 11-12-2013

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So, apparently, this is happening :commands

“In their zeal to tout their faith in the public square, conservatives in Oklahoma may have unwittingly opened the door to a wide range of religious groups, including Satanists who are seeking to put their own statue next to a Ten Commandments monument outside the Statehouse.

“The Republican-controlled Legislature in this state known as the buckle of the Bible Belt authorized the privately funded Ten Commandments monument in 2009, and it was placed on the Capitol grounds last year despite criticism from legal experts who questioned its constitutionality.” (Source)

This is not a post about my feelings on church and state. I’ve talked about that before in an article I posted a while back at Provoketive Magazine. Every Christian should be aware of these issues. I will quickly add that the Oklahomans did it because they probably thought they had legal precedent on their side. In Van Orden v. Perry, the Supreme Court allowed a display of the Ten Commandments to stand, but for very specific reasons. You know, as a Christian, we really should be involved with reading and informing ourselves about why the Supreme Court does what it does instead of just watching television to get them to explain it to us.

With all that legal mumbo jumbo aside, I do want to discuss what I feel are some serious problems that cling to this issue like socks to a polo shirt when you take it out of the dryer.

1. Examining our rationale behind placing the Ten Commandments

Don’t start booing me yet. Why are we so intent on engraving the Ten Commandments on a six ton block of granite and placing it in front of courthouses?

schoolprayerNo, I know why. I’ve heard the reasons. Here’s one – “It’s our heritage. When they took prayer and the Ten Commandments out of schools, things started getting worse.” Alright then. There is an issue at stake and it needs to be addressed when that question is asked. What if Christianity isn’t the majority religion one day?

I live in a state where prayers are still said before ballgames. But what if one day Christians aren’t the majority and another world religion decides that they have the right to say the prayers instead of the Christians because they have more people?

See the problem? We can’t allow the government to establish one religion, but we should encourage religious rights for all people.

Another thing that comes up: “We need to have it there so our kids and grandkids can see it and know this is a Christian nation.” Alrighty. If you can get them distracted away from their iPad long enough to see the six ton rock, that’s great. The idea that a rock can be a tool for witnessing strikes me a little strange.

Jesus didn’t say, “Go ye therefore unto all the world, placing the Ten Commandments onto large granite blocks so all can see them, read the law and be led to me.” Nope. We’re supposed to be individually sharing the love of Christ, his compassion, and showing them the need for a Savior. Sure, the Ten Commandments are a great starting point. But they work much better when you carry them around with you instead of putting them on a stationary stump of granite.

2. Putting up solid granite monuments with any religious iconography seems desperate

No joke – churches are in decline. Pastors are leaving the ministry at an alarming rate. Divorce among Christians is prettyozymandias much the same as it is among non-Christians.

Are we putting up icons so that we can ensure a legacy of Christianity will be remembered? It’s almost as if we’re saying, “Well, we sure didn’t go out and witness to people in our neighborhood or in other countries, but we put up this granite slab that had the Ten Commandments on it. That thing sure isn’t going anywhere.”

It’s a sick sort of desperation. We feel like the brand of American Christianity is slipping away. And I might note that the American brand of Christianity is not necessarily always the same as what the Founder created. But here we are in our churches with people leaving at a high rate, people on the outside hurting and skeptical and we are chiseling rocks.

Reminds me of Percy Shelley’s poem, Ozymandias (which is cooler when Bryan Cranston reads it):

Is that what will be left of our brand of Christianity? “Nothing beside remains. Round the decay / Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare.”

It might be if as a church we don’t start looking outside to the same people Jesus was looking at. Too often our churches look like a country club clique. Heaven forbid an alcoholic, soldier with PTSD, adulterer, destitute family, or fallen pastor walk through our doors. There is a huge difference in the way Jesus did things and the way most of us do things. He went out and found people. A lot of us sit and wait for people to come to us. And if we don’t like how they look, smell, act or perform, we run them off.

3. The Satanic Church doesn’t really need a monument

In case you missed it, the Ten Commandment granite block is in Oklahoma. The particular church of Satan that wants to build a monument of its own to Lucifer is located in New York. The church of Satan does have the right to worship freely without persecution by the government. Let’s be clear about that.

graniteBut I’m not sure they should even be looking at constructing a monument. There are plenty of monuments dedicated to evil in this country. As Christians, each of us has violated the Ten Commandments on a regular basis. We have allowed ourselves to become desensitized to sin and we break the very rules we want to chisel on that granite.

Case in point – I set up this site to help pastors who have committed adultery and the people and churches who have been effected by their fall. Other sins? We lie, we steal, we cheat, we do not honor God with our lives, we covet, we hate our neighbor and by doing so, we’ve already built monuments to evil that have done more harm than any church of Satan could ever do.

And by allowing ourselves to become so filled with sin, we have neglected the Gospel and personal holiness.

So what do we do? In Revelation 2:12-17, John wrote to the city of Pergamum where he said the “throne of Satan” resided. The throne he was referring to was probably Pergamon Altar built for the worship of Zeus. It was huge and was very visible. What did Paul say to do about it? Repent and live a godly life.

We don’t need the Ten Commandments on a huge block in the middle of our town. Parents, grandparents, we need to be sharing Christ with our teachers. Pastors, youth directors, choir leaders – teach the people in the pews solid theology and how to adore Christ. Through the Word, through prayer, through biblical worship.

Can it be done? It has to be done. When people come face to face with Jesus Christ, they won’t leave. When they hear the Gospel proclaimed, it will not return void. “For how will they hear without a six ton granite block?” No. They won’t hear without Christians proclaiming the message.

__________________

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.

 

Hershael York, Pt. 2: Pornography, Ministry Failure & Prevention

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, brokenness, church, circumstance, compassion, fallenness, forgiveness, Hershael York, jesus, ministry, pastoring, pornography, preachers, repentance, restoration, seminary | Posted on 25-10-2013

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This is part two of my interview with Dr. Hershael York concerning fallen pastors, grace, ministry failure, and all kinds of things. If you missed part one, please go there first. If not, here is part two of our conversation. If you are looking for even more Dr. York quotables, he helped me out when I wrote my book.

Dr. York and I had been talking about ministry failure, but then the conversation began to turn to the heart of what makes pastors turn and whether anything can be done about it.

yorkWhat can churches and pastors do to prevent ministry failure?

I told Dr. York that since my fall and the inception of my ministry with fallenpastor.com, I’ve had a lot of Christians become very uncomfortable with my presence. There are times I’ll introduce myself to a pastor, tell him about my ministry then my former sin and he’ll take two steps back like he’s going to “catch adultery.”

Dr. York: “The truth is they’re merely uncomfortable talking to people whose sin has been discovered. That’s your only real difference. There’s not one of us that if you took the darkest secret of our life and past, we would be absolutely humiliated, drummed out of the corps, and be considered useless.”

I asked what he thought we could do about helping churches when their pastors fall and told him it was something that has been running through my mind.

Dr. York: “If a guy is repentant and recognizes that he’s sinned against God and has been broken in his sin, then a church has an incredible opportunity to glorify God. God is glorified by repentance and restoration. I don’t think churches know how to do that well.

“We no longer ask students or missionary candidates, ‘Have you  looked at pornography?’ We now ask, ‘When was the last time you looked at pornography?’”

“Our Baptist polity works against us in this way: We don’t have bishops who have any authority to step in. Few of our Directors of Missions are equipped to do this and a lot of churches are distant from their association to begin with. But it’s not like the DOM is the go-to guy to step in and say, ‘here’s what you do.’ Because we’re all autonomous, there’s no central authority.”

The real problem behind pastor failure

The conversation took a turn as we started discussing one of the biggest problems for pastors and men in general. The topic came up as he was talking about an idea he was tossing around to embolden and encourage ministers as a ministry at his own church.

Dr. York: “I work at Southern (Seminary) and am associated with the International Mission Board and I can tell you this; We no longer ask students or missionary candidates, ‘Have you looked at pornography?’ We now ask, ‘When was the last time you looked at pornography?’ That’s what we ask.”

chnprnHe said he’s aware of more and more marriage issues arising between seminary students and their wives because of pornography. The problem of pornography has become a serious issue not just for the men of the church, but for the leaders. He continued:

“Our world says, ‘Whatever your tendency, indulge it.’ So if you’re married and you don’t want to have sex, do it. And if you’re unmarried and you want to have sex, do it. Even guys who have really consecrated themselves to the Lord are having problems. And if from the time you were 12 or 13 years old and you’ve seen everything the Internet has to offer, if you give into it as a married person, you’re going to have serious problems.

“It goes from titillation to what I would call preoccupation with beauty to what I would call perversion. You’ve got to go beyond beauty to get that endorphin rush. There are a thousand perversions out there and people feel they have to ramp it up to get a greater thrill. Once you’re dissatisfied, you lose contentment with what God has given you, and that’s what’s really at the heart of all this sin. Here’s the sphere of what God has given me, and the Word says it enough, but I say, ‘God’s been unfair to me and he hasn’t given me what I want so I’m going to reach outside this sphere and take what I want, whether it’s pornography, another woman, another man,’ and whatever it is, you’ve gone beyond God’s provision for you, you’re not contenting yourself.”

Preventing discontentment in ministry – Dr. York’s secret to success

Dr. York shared with me what has worked for him in ministry. He acknowledged that there were plenty of times that he could have sinned, but God has protected him. But there was a specific moment in his life that he can point to that shines out above all the rest that led to his success in ministry:

“There’s a thing that my wife Tanya and I have started saying that’s not very popular for us to say. Tanya and I agree that the most spiritually significant decision we’ve ever made as a couple was the decision that she would not work outside our home. Now, we don’t lay that down as a rule, I’m not saying that’s God’s will for everybody, I’m not saying you’re in sin or wrong if both of you work.

“But here is what I will say with complete confidence and comfort: It’s harder to stay married and it’s successharder to stay in love when both of you have completely separate spheres of life. She develops her friends and you develop yours. She has her work goals and aspirations and you have yours.

“One of the keys to my success as a pastor in all the churches I have served is Tanya. She just adds so much. She’s a gel. She can just smooth everything over. She senses problems before they occur. Tanya could be making $200,000 a year in real estate if she wanted, there’s no doubt in my mind. And by the way, I was making only $11,000 a year and living in a parsonage when we made this decision. So it’s not like we decided this after I was ‘Dr. York,’ and can pull in the money. We didn’t even struggle with the decision. We both made it.

“We look back at it now, 32 years in and say, ‘That was the critical decision. That made the difference.’ What woman in my church could I start getting close to that she wouldn’t know about it? She’s there, she sees it. She’s not worn out from her career to not notice and conversely she’s truly in my ministry, we have the same friends, a shared ministry purpose. We are always like minded.”

Preventing ministry failure through keeping focus

One thing that you can learn from Dr. York is that he has focus. He loves Jesus. He loves his wife. He loves his family. He loves his church. He’s not a man who will talk your ear off about meaningless things, but he will talk to you about things that are always wise and heartfelt.  And it is this type of thing that has kept him focused on what is right and away from ministry failure:

“I had a man who talked to me once who had fallen. Years before he had a woman come to him in counseling and had said, ‘My husband doesn’t pay attention to me,’ and he said, ‘I know exactly how you feel.’ That was the beginning of the end. He lost it all. The guy also said this to me, ‘Women in my church were always coming on to me.’ And I told him, ‘I find that hard to believe. It’s never happened to me.’

fallen“I believe we send out signals. You come into my office and I’ve got pictures of Tanya in my office up and you can’t be around me for five minutes without me talking about her or Jesus. No woman in any church I’ve served has ever said anything inappropriate to me. I just have to believe that it’s not that you’re the hunkiest guy in the world that makes women want to give themselves over to you, but you’re sending out signals. The minute you said to her, ‘I know how you feel’ you’re making it about you.

“I want to walk in such a way that even if someone falsely accused me, people in my church would say, ‘No, there’s no way.’

 “But there’s a false security guys want to feed, ‘Do I still have it.’ That’s another thing I practice and teach – embrace whatever stage of life you’re in.  I think it would look ridiculous for me as a 53 year old man to attempt to look or act like I’m 33. Paul said I have learned at whatsoever state I am I am there with to be content. And if you really believe Jesus is enough, it just gets rid of that stuff.  That’s where I want to live. I really want to live in the absolute belief that Jesus is enough for me, whatever stage of life.”

Finishing up

Many thanks to Dr. York once again for talking to me and imparting wisdom to me. For being a friend when many won’t even consider talking to me. But more importantly, for believing in grace and what it is truly capable of.

“I cannot need grace as desperately as I do and then refuse it to others.” – Dr. Hershael York

___________________________

Dr. Hershael York is the Victor and Louise Professor of Christian Preaching and Associate Dean of Ministry and Proclamation at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Senior Pastor of Buck Run Baptist Church in Frankfort, Kentucky. Tanya, his wife of twenty-seven years, is a popular speaker at women’s conferences, and they have two married sons, Michael, 25, and Seth, 23. For a full biography, please click here.

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.

Leaning In, Not Stepping Back: Sinners As Modern Day Lepers

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in Christ, church, church members, forgiveness, gospel, jesus, sin | Posted on 12-08-2013

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I wrote about this a few weeks ago, but it happened again and I have given it more thought.  I was at a social event and a backwoman walked up to me and told me I looked familiar. She really couldn’t tell who I was and I danced around it a bit until I told her I was former pastor of a church in the area.

That’s when it all came together for her. It’s usually the same treatment when they realize I was the pastor who committed adultery. There’s this flash of shock in the eyes followed quickly by a step backwards (or two). Then, there’s an immediate need on their part to exit the conversation. Their speech begins to get quicker, their eyes dart around the room for someone else to connect to, and there is a sudden need to do anything – anything – but talk to you.

Yeah, I get it. I’m the adulterer. I’m the guy who sinned almost four years ago while pastoring a church. Before I did it I would probably act the same way as you.

There are other types as well. They are the people who see you in public and make accidental eye contact with you. They do everything they can do to avoid running into you. I like to wave as big as I can to them across the store. I don’t know what the proper thing to do there is, but I figure if they’re trying to ignore me, they need a big happy smile.

leperThe whole thing makes me think about leprosy. Yeah, that nasty disease referred to in the New Testament. It could have meant any number of skin lesions that people suffered from. They were societal outcasts who had to keep their distance from someone. Ever talk to someone with a skin disease? What’s our first response? We may not mean it in a bad way, but we usually flinch or step backwards.

Same response we give to people we know are sinners. People who were leaders and fell due to great sin. People covered with tattoos (who actually might be a youth leader at a local church). People we find out are in recovery. But we like to flinch. We may say nice little things with our mouths, but our bodies want to run 100 mph in the other direction.

If you’ve never been on the receiving end of a flinch, you have no idea what it’s like or how it feels.

But I know someone who never flinched around a leper or a sinner – Christ. He touched lepers, the weak, needy, poor, adulterers, prostitutes and downtrodden. He went out of his way to interact with them. When no doctor, priest, church leader would have any contact with them, he gave them hope.

He’s our model for sinner interaction. Better yet, he reached out to us in our sin and died for us – the Bible says, “such 1cor6were some of you.” Think about how we looked to God – who cannot look upon sin – covered in sin, far from righteousness – and yet Christ came to us and saved us.

Maybe we should watch our actions around others. Those who offend our delicate senses with their sin. Maybe we should be people of compassion like Christ and start leaning in instead of stepping back.

______________________

Ray Carroll is author of “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World.”

Are Christians Allowed To Enjoy Life Following A Major Sin?

Posted by Ray Carroll | 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:

What I Would Change About The Way I Pastored

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in church, church members, churches, compassion, jesus, pastoral care, pastoring, pastors | Posted on 25-02-2013

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psIt’s been almost five years since I fell from the ministry. I don’t spend a lot of free time these days thinking about my days as  pastor. I have the occasional conversation with former church members in whom I can confide. When I do, it helps me see things from a different angle.

Surely, the sin I committed, followed by the humbling circumstances and my eventual turning back to Christ made me a different person. If I could go back in time and do it again, there would be a few things that I would change about myself.

1. I would resist the urge to always be right.

I know for a fact that this isn’t just unique to me. It’s good to be right, don’t get me wrong. Pastors preach the Word of God, the truth of Scripture. But I think there may be moments when we preach that we get confused and believe that just because we’re preaching God’s truth, it means that it’s our truth. If I can say it differently, it’s almost like we trap ourselves in a protective bubble where we think that standing behind a pulpit gives us freedom to say what we want and believe we are right. We can win any argument “just because we’re the pastor” or “because I have a seminary degree.” We may not phrase it that way, but that subtle pride does sneak in from time to time and it needs to be beaten down with a big, ugly stick.

2. I would make sure to mix in more of the compassion and grace of Christ in my preaching.

I preached as an unabashed Calvinist. That doesn’t mean I never preached on the saving grace of Christ. I did. One of my seminary professors said, “If the gospel isn’t present in your sermon each week, you’ve failed.” I took that to heart. But there were times when I was so caught up in the depravity of man and I punched that card so many times, I wonder if I properly balanced it with the Savior. On this side of my life, I’ve seen the compassion and love Christ has for outcasts. He didn’t approach sinners with their depravity, he went to where they were and spoke truth and love to them. There is a time to share sinful nature. But there is always time to let people know how amazing, deep, and fervent the love of Christ really is.

3. I would make time to really, really listen more.

I did visit shut-ins, make hospital visits, phone calls, perform funerals, console the grieving, counsel, etc. Like most memberppastors, those were things that were expected. That’s not what I’m talking about. What about the people we see each Sunday who you ask, “How are you?” And each Sunday they say, “Doing great!” What if they aren’t? What if some of those people, those who are working two jobs to make ends meet and can barely stay awake in church, those youth who look sad on occasion, those older members you see who look lost and sad once in a while – what if we went out of our way to just engage them for a moment. Don’t talk, but just listen. If they don’t want to talk right then, they know you care. And it may open up a chance for them to come to you later.

4. I would spend less time worrying about things that I had no control over.

There are a lot of things pastors can’t control, but we spend a lot of time preaching about them. Gossip, giving, committee meetings, people who don’t like us, etc. We try and pray about it, we put it in God’s hands, but a day later, we’re still worrying about little conflicts here and there. Somewhere in the black and white of Scripture it says, “remember your calling.Our calling isn’t to get all anxious and worked up about things we can’t control. Jesus told us not to worry or get anxious. Being anxious doesn’t do any good because most of this world is out of our control anyway. The best we can do is gauge our reaction to the events in front of us. It’s a very hard thing to do as a pastor, but I think I’ve learned to do a better job.

5. Demonstrate the love of Christ, not my own bitterness.

loveofxSo many times I would hear of sin in the church. I would get angry and want to do something about it. I’d fret, worry and react. Church discipline has it’s place when it’s done for restoration. But my heart wasn’t balanced right. I was out to remove cancers, not to heal hearts. Christ showed compassion for sinners. When they didn’t have another friend in the world, he chose to stand by them. He chose understanding over judgment. And later, he would give his life so that they might be free from their sin.

Interestingly, I would not even venture to change anything about the church. If change is to happen, it has to start with the man in the pulpit. Christ changed this world. How? Because of who he was. And with Christ in us, we can also make changes. Attempting to change people through guilt, anger, lashing out, or other means is useless. Changing ourselves by allowing Christ to work in us is how the church will be transformed.

I’m thankful for the years I got to spend as a pastor. I do miss preaching to a great degree. I’m told when I preach now that I’m a totally different person, and I choose to take that as a compliment. Falling and failing into a great pit is a great way to be humbled, especially when it’s your own fault. But we can always know that Christ will be there to drag us out of it.

I’m thankful for the man God has made me into today. He’s not done with me and I’m not perfect by a long shot. I just pray that I may be able to help those who were in my situation before they reach a crisis point. I pray that all of us, pastor or church member or nominal Christian would be able to reflect upon ourselves in the light of Christ and follow him and let him show us what he sees in us.

__________________

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.

Is Repentance Possible For The Fallen Pastor?

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, jesus, repentance, scarlet letter | Posted on 05-02-2013

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This is a tough issue to approach, because a lot of people are going to disagree with it. So, let me start with the easy stuff.

repentsWhen a pastor falls from the ministry, due to adultery, embezzlement, alcoholism, or whatever, the immediate desired response is that he repent on the spot. Repentance, as we know it, is a turning away from his sin and moving back toward God.

If he has left his wife or committed adultery, he needs to cut off all contact with the woman he is with and try to reconcile with his wife and family.

To do this, he needs the help of his church, counselors, and spiritual people who are willing to walk with him in restoration for a long time. It will be a difficult process. It will be a long process. In the beginning, he may not want to come back, but if he shows repentance, along with the support of the church, he may come back.

Even if he does, he will always have the albatross of sin tied around his neck for the rest of his life. I do know of many pastors who restored with their wives who reentered into ministry under the care of gracious churches.

That’s the easy one. Then we have the pastors, who I have written about extensively in my book, “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World,” who for whatever reason, decided not to turn from their sin. In my book, I talk about the stages the pastor goes through in the early days of his fall. He is angry over a lot of things, he feels rejected, he knows he has sinned, yet he is looking to justify his sin.

Few reach out to him and often, the only friend he has is the woman he has chosen to be with. These aren’t excuses for anconflict unrepentant attitude, they are the reality in which he lives.

Which brings me to a most important point – his issues didn’t start overnight. He didn’t wake up one day and decide to commit adultery. His temptation was preceded by years of issues, conflict, marriage issues and ultimately, temptation. The confusion he now finds himself in are a result of his own sin and he has to face the consequences.

He may reach out to his wife at some point to discuss reconciliation to find it isn’t possible. He may not wait long enough for the anger to reside. He may just be stagnant in his sin and keep pushing on. He may just want to be with this new woman. Regardless, he has made his choice, leaving many people behind hurt and disillusioned.

Someday, though, the light goes on. It probably goes on after he’s remarried or after reconciliation with his wife has long passed. His heart begins to turn to God and He realizes he has sinned greatly, but there is little he can do about his sin.

He knows he can write letters of apology, call the church deacons, apologize to his former wife, family, but he cannot undo the past. He turns to God for forgiveness and God forgives. He always does.

King David committed adultery with Bathsheba, then to hide his sin, he had her husband murdered. There’s no reconciliation to be had there with anyone. But after his sin was discovered, he poured out his heart to God for forgiveness. But where’s the repentance? He can’t undo the adultery and murder. God wanted a repentant heart in David. And David was broken when he wrote Psalm 56 and I believe he turned his heart to God. He couldn’t un-murder Uriah, but he could repent for his actions.

There are many that believe that a fallen pastor who did not reconcile with his wife can never be truly repentant. They make a good point. Their point is that unless you go back to your wife and family, you are not repentant. You are still a sinner and out of the will of God.

I’ve posed this question to a lot of counselors and seminary professors and people with a much higher pay grade than me. Why? Not so I could justify myself. But because I want to be right with God. After my divorce, reconciliation was not to be had, I remarried and went on. I spent a  lot of time in anger and bitterness.

sinnomoreThen, I had my moment with God. My moment where I asked if I could be truly repentant. I was reminded of the woman caught in adultery. He told her to “Go and sin no more.” I was reminded of the tax collectors who came to Christ and the result of their life was to stop living in a way that was dishonoring to God. The thief on the cross was granted entrance into heaven based on his belief. Paul, on the road to Damascus, was transformed by Christ and his life took a turn completely God-ward.

None of these people could do anything about their past at that point. It was what it was. The tax collector refunded the people’s money. Some could go and apologize to those they had harmed. But Christ desired a heart change. He wanted them to “go and sin no more.” He wanted the sin they had committed that led them there to stop.

Quote me how divorce is adultery and remarriage is adultery. I understand. I understand the sins committed in those days were done out of my own selfishness, due to the circumstances around me, due to my own desire to sin. All my sin. But I also know I was forgiven.

And if I quote Hershael York once, I’ll quote him a thousand times. He said to me, “You have to make your repentance more notorious than your sin.” He wasn’t excusing what I had done, but recognizing that I had sinned. But now that I had, I had to live a life of holiness, a life pleasing to God.

Unfortunately, for the fallen pastor, for many, he will always be seen as the man with the Scarlet Letter emblazoned upon him. Not worthy of forgiveness or trust. Hated by many, scorned by his former pastor friends, and not worthy of any service to God. I know better. There is hope. God is never done with His servants who turn their hearts toward Him. God has forgotten your sin if you repent and turn away from former things. Even if others bring it up, God has cast it as far as the east is from the west.

If you’re a fallen pastor and are reading this, regardless of what stage you are in, there is hope for repentance. Deep down, you know what to do. Turn to God, seek Him and He will answer.

(This is a repost from a while back, but I thought it might help those who are new to the site – God bless).

People Who Cut Themselves, Martin Luther, and Jesus

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in jesus, Martin Luther, self-harm | Posted on 29-12-2012

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cuttingI remember when she walked into my office. I had been pastoring for about five years. She was 13, had spoken to me about the pressures she was under at school to smoke, have sex, conform and do other things. Then she told me something I had never heard.

She had been cutting her arms with a razor.

I thought, “What?”

My next thought was, “Is this a cry for help? Is she close to suicide?” Immediately, I pushed those thoughts aside. She had a lot of trouble at home, but she didn’t have any of the signs of suicide that I had been trained to look or listen for. But self-abuse?

That’s been almost seven years ago. Since that time, I’ve become more aware and come into contact with many teens who engage in the act of self-mutilation known as “cutting.” Most of them are female, in their teens, and have many problems at home. They all seem to have trouble expressing their feelings in words, are under tremendous stress, are extremely misunderstood, but are in need of help and love.

I know there a lot of pastors out there who have been approached about this subject. There are kids in your youth group who engage in this type of activity. They may try to hide it or may engage in it with others. Either way, it is something that all adults need to be aware of. However, it is not something we need to approach with an immediate judgmental attitude. These kids cut for a reason. They need our love and understanding and our help.

I was a youth minister for about five months recently. I didn’t do the best job in the world. When I was a pastor, I had a responsibility to the youth as the overseer. I’ve always felt that the youth needed a large amount of special attention. They needed counseling, care and attention just like everyone else. They needed to connect in a way with a leader because they had specific needs. We forget what it was like being a youth. It was tough and when we negate their struggles, we negate our own time growing up

After reading some information and trying to get a grasp, here’s what I think I understand about it – cutting yourself is pain. It turns up the volume so loud that it drowns out the rest of the pain that you feel in your life. Friends, that deserves our attention.

So what about youths who cut themselves? There is a lot of information out there that you should read. I’ve made a youthhandy list below of links.

The question that is most important is this – what would Jesus think of those who cut themselves?

Let me share this – of the kids I’ve known who cut themselves, there is a typical reaction to it. In churches, a lot of people say, “Well, they are just kids full of drama,” or “Their parents need to get them help.

No. That kind of thinking is not helpful. Kids who cut themselves need the help of the community of faith. Like anyone else who is undergoing trouble, they need understanding and love.

Can you imagine what the response of our Savior would be? It would be the response He would have to any of us. Love, compassion, understanding. Holding us in His loving arms, making us better, patiently waiting and caring for us, being there while we healed.

And let me add this – what did Jesus think of Martin Luther, the great Reformer? While Luther was a monk, “he was accustomed to flogging himself and all manner of strict asceticism in an attempt to overcome his sinful impulses.” Self-punishment isn’t anything new. Luther did it. He did it to drown out the pain that was in his head and in his soul. There was a cure. The cure was the love and justification of Christ. Luther wrapped his arms around Jesus, embracing His grace, drowning in it and receiving it, starting a new day for Christianity.

That’s what our response should be. If you know someone who is engaged in self-mutilation, cutting or self-abusive behavior, don’t immediately react with anger or “why are you doing this?” Approach them with love, offering to get them help and above all, the compassion of our Savior.

_______________________

This is one of those topics where I don’t have a huge amount of knowledge, but I have a tremendous amount of compassion. Here are a few outside links to get you started:

Podcast from “Stuff Your Mom Never Told You“: Why Do Some People Hurt Themselves On Purpose?

Self-Cutting, from the Mayo Clinic

S.A.F.E. Alternatives, a site and organization dedicated to those who harm themselves – great site

The obligatory link to Wikipedia, “Self-harm”

_____________________

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.

 

How Come We’re So Darn Judgmental?

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, affair, fallenness, jesus, judgment, repentance, sin | Posted on 16-08-2012

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Really? What’s our deal?

Jesus knew we were judgmental people. He even had to make sure it became part of the permanent record: “Judge not, that you not be judged.” (Matthew 7:1, ESV)

Now, before you start up with discernment vs. judgment, let me give you my hillbilly definition of judgment vs. discernment.

Let’s say you just heard Billy Bob cheated on his wife. You say, “Oh my.” In your “Oh my,” you’re thinking, “that’s terrible, I feel sorry for his wife and kids. I hope everyone is okay. That’s such a tough sin to get through.

Hey, guess what? That’s discernment. That’s knowing what is right from wrong.

But the next thing you say is, “Well, I’d never do that. Billy Bob is such a scoundrel. He’s dirtier than dirt. Why he’s lower than the scum on Satan’s boots. I think I’m gonna pick up the phone and tell everyone/Twitter this/post this on Facebook and let everyone know what a jerk he is.

That’s judgment. Thinking others to be lower than ourselves because of a sin they committed. The same Bible that we find, “You shall not commit adultery” in also contains “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23, ESV)

None of us are any better than anyone else. Some of us have been justified by Christ, but we’re not better. But man, do we get judgmental. It’s a sin to be judgmental of someone.

When I was a pastor, I had a judgmental streak. I still have an overwhelming sense of justice. That part isn’t so bad, but when it turns to judgmentalism, it’s very bad. If I saw sin, I’d want it gone. Which is good. But I’d go about doing it in a bad way. Not just that, I’d have this self-righteous feeling about myself the entire time. Like I was better than the person sinning.

After I fell, most of that went away. It’s amazing what a great fall can do to you. It’s phenomenal how experiencing the grace of God can transform you into someone who just wants to love sinners more. I get emails from fallen pastors frequently. I just want to help them. Before my fall? I probably would have thought, “That lousy guy couldn’t keep himself straight? Pitiful.

Not anymore.

Read more after the jump…..

Fallen Pastor: Why My Book Is Nauseating

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, book, Christ, compassion, cross, forgiveness, hope, jesus, pastors, reconciliation, restoration | Posted on 11-06-2012

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Since Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World was released in January, I’ve had a lot of positive response. There have been a wide array of people who have read it and told me it has made them see forgiveness and restoration in a different light.

That’s great.

But there have been a few who have 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 our 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 position 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.

Thankfully, 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.

__________________

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.