Category Archives: ministry

Pastors and the Batman Problem

jokerAs a Batman fan, something struck me the other day while I was watching the new hit TV show, Gotham. In my years of reading Batman and Detective Comics, why didn’t Batman/Bruce Wayne ever build a better prison to lock up the Joker?

The Joker is responsible for a lot of death and destruction and he’s typically housed in Arkham Asylum from which he’s escaped on numerous occasions.

So why didn’t/doesn’t Bruce/Batman spend a little Wayne Foundation money on making sure that the Joker is in an escape-proof, Joker-tight, laser-guarded, seven-miles-below-the-earth, impossible to escape from cell? Everything else is plausible in the comic book world, why not that?

Honestly, for a man who doesn’t seem to want to kill, prevention should be pretty high on his list, right?

Then that got me to thinking about this ministry, pastors and the Batman problem.  Every pastor has the Joker looming around the corner. Most every pastor would admit that he is capable of ministry failure. Whether that’s adultery, sexual sin, burnout, or his marriage falling apart – most pastors know it can happen.

Even more, most pastors give some degree of lip service to it. Some guys protect their hearts and marriages. A lot of guys will say, “Oh yeah, everything is fine in my marriage and ministry,” even though things are falling down around them.

Despite whether we deny the reality of future temptation or not, it exists and can happen. It’s like the Joker. And we can choose to build a prison for the guy and get ready for him, or we can ignore that he’s there and let him wreak havoc whenever he decides to show up.

Pastors aren’t stupid. They know how to protect their hearts. Theycesarjoker know what they should and shouldn’t be looking at. They know that they need accountability and mentoring. It’s just doing it. It’s realizing that all of us need help, regardless of education, age or experience, swallowing our pride and asking for support.

I’m here to help. If you want to know if your church is equipped for ministry failure, I can help. If you want resources, check out my blogroll. If you have a private question, go to my contact page.

But understand that if we don’t take steps to lock up the villains on our own, they will find us and do some serious damage. 

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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.

The Yellow Sticky Note

Today I’m honored to guest blog from an old friend. I’m posting a bio below. But please read the post first. I think a lot of you will relate to the writing and the topic. It’s one of the best posts I’ve read in a long time.

He asked me to write an article for his website.  If he only knew, he wouldn’t ask.  I knew what I wanted to say, but didn’t have the courage to tell the truth.

What came to mind was my first appointment with a therapist about 30 years ago.  At the end of our session, he wrote something on a yellow sticky note, and told me to put it on my refrigerator.  It said, “I’m doing the best I can.  That’s good enough.”  Immediately I said, “Nonsense!  I’m doing the best I can, and it’s never good enough.”  “But it has to be,” he replied, “because it’s all you can do.

post-it-yellowFor the last nine months, I’ve been sinking into increasing depression and despair.  I’m eating less, drinking more, and find it difficult to pray.  I’ve stopped teaching my class, cancelled my relationships with the two women I mentored, and hardly ever write. I’m still connected to my family, but only have one truly honest relationship – a friend who knows most of what’s going on and refuses to give up on me, believing when I can’t.

It’s not that I don’t care anymore, yet my ability to move forward has all but ceased, and I feel like it’s my fault.  I certainly have no business leading anyone else spiritually.  Why would I want to lead anyone into this darkness?

And yet it isn’t totally dark inside me.  There is still a sense of ministry as I care for a crabby, difficult old lady 36 hours a week, offering her the patience and compassion I don’t feel for myself.  The satisfaction I have in cooking healthy meals for my family still thrives.  Twice a week I go to church and the gym.  In other words, I haven’t given up on life.  But my self-esteem lies liquid on the floor, the vision I once had is vacant, and I can’t escape.  Self-destruction and self-fulfillment co-exist.  It’s not the end, but……I don’t know what it is, but it isn’t good.  It certainly isn’t “good enough.”

What isn’t missing is my awareness of God’s presence.  God hasn’t left nor have I left God.  The Bible says nothing can separate us from the love of God, and God promises to never leave us.  That is my one solace in this turmoil.  But what is my purpose right now?

Simon Peter comes to mind – a spiritual loose cannon.  He was predictably irresponsible, a class-act idiot, saying and doing the dumbest things.  If he had been one of my disciples, I would have fired him.  Actually, if I had known what he was like, I wouldn’t have chosen him in the first place.  He failed Jesus so many times.  Peter finally gave up trying and went back to fishing after abandoning Jesus on the worst day of his life.

And yet Jesus came to him personally where he was – even after all that – and told Peter to feed and care for His sheep.  How do you feed someone when you have nothing to give?  How do you care for someone when you are doing a terrible job of caring for yourself? Makes me think of the TV show, “Mission Impossible” – “Your mission, should you choose to accept it,….”  What if I can’t accept what seems to be impossible?  Certainly God wouldn’t say, “You’re doing the best you can.  That’s good enough.

Yeah, right.

That damn yellow sticky note.  Even if I don’t believe it’s true, what if my mission from God today is to get up and go to work, cook a good dinner for my family, and treat that crabby old lady with kindness, even if I don’t feel like it? God, you know I’m already doing those things.

And God said, “Read the yellow sticky note.”

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Our guest blogger today was Joy Wilson. Joy Wilson is the author of Uncensored Prayer: The Spiritual Practice of Wrestling With God (Civitas Press, 2011). She blogs at Solacetree.

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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.

Is Your Church Equipped to Handle Ministry Failure?

It is my strong belief that most churches and leaders are not ready to handle the failure of a church leader. But even before that happens, I believe that it can and should be prevented.

This video is an invitation to church leaders, associational missionaries, church members, pastors and anyone who wants to prevent ministry failure in their churches. It is also a call to fallen pastors to heal and be restored back to Christ.

There seems to be a grassroots movement of people who are becoming concerned about this issue. I hope that’s the case. If you’d like to help, please share this short video and/or this website with people and their churches so that we might see ministry failure due to sexual sin stopped before it gets started.

__________________

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.

Too Many Fallen Pastors: A Call For Reformation

Since my own fall from ministry five years ago, I have been ministering to fallen pastors, their churches, their wives, the women they have been involved with, their families, and others. I’m always happy to see people restored back to Christ, yet I am still discouraged by the stories of discernmentinfidelity in the ministry, pastoral suicide and burnout, and divorce in the ministry.

I affirm as always that infidelity is a choice people make. It is also a place no one arrives at in a vacuum. Pastors and ministers are under terrible pressure and it doesn’t seem to be getting any better. Something needs to change. Reformation needs to occur in many places so these stories will stop. There is an epidemic and all of us can do something to make things change.

Here are some of the issues and some suggestions to get started:

Pastors

Church Leaders

  • Church leaders need to be ready and trained for a church crisis.
  • Church leaders should know the potential areas of weakness in the lives of their pastor.
  • Church leaders should be involved in the mentoring and spiritual well-being of their pastor.
  • When a pastor does fall, while it is difficult, it is on the leaders to remain faithful to the words of Scripture in handling sin and the sinner in the most Christ-like manner, while also ministering to the congregation.
  • Make sure that when a pastor falls, there are many people involved: The pastor’s wife, the woman he was involved with (possibly a church member or staff member), his family, the congregation. Wisdom and discernment are very important.
  • When a pastor falls, understand that the community is watching to see how the church is going to treat a fallen sinner.

Church Members

  • Church members should always be spiritually supportive of their church leaders through prayer.
  • When conflict arises, brothers and sisters in Christ should always approach one another in love and understanding, seeking victory in Christ.
  • When a pastor falls, be ready to wait for the truth and not gossip. Be ready to pray for those involved and forgive.

To this list, I would add two things. First, if you have already fallen or have been hurt, that’s why this ministry exists. To help you. You’re not alone. Life isn’t over.

Secondly, if you are a pastor or church leader who wants to see this stop, this ministry exists for you as well. I’ve linked to several previous blog articles for help and I will also answer direct questions. I’m available to speak to any size group.

What I do know is that this epidemic has to stop. We can each do what it takes to stop it. There is no one person to point the finger at to blame. We all have a role to play in stopping the scourge of ministry failure.

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.

When a Pastor Falls, 3: What’s the Right Way to Respond?

This series is designed to help church leaders have a broad concept on how to handle the situation when their pastor has been accused of moral failure. Not all situations are the same, but the response should always be one of love, grace and truth. When the pastor falls, there is a difference between a biblical and unethical response.

Take time to catch up on parts one and two before reading today’s post.

The Church’s Response to the Pastor’s Sin

ashamedpThis post assumes you’ve sat down with the pastor and you know he has committed a sexual sin. He’s either admitted to adultery or you are convinced he has and you have the evidence. In my last post, I quoted Dr. Hershael York (I strongly encourage you to go back and read that quote) who said that the church’s response should be guided by how the pastor reacts. (Dr. York’s quote and other ways to handle a pastor’s reaction are also found in my book.)

At this moment, the pastor has forfeit his right to shepherd the church. He was appointed to be the pastor of a congregation under the guidelines of 1 Timothy 3 and he has lost the trust of the congregation. I am of the belief that in the overwhelming majority of cases, the church should be informed of the sin.

A couple of important things need to be remembered. First if your pastor shows any sign of repentance he needs to be restored. I’m not talking about being restored to ministry. That’s something that is so far off that it’s not even in the conversation at this point. He needs to be restored to Christ and his family. And as a member of your congregation, it is upon you to find him help. Does he need to remain at your church? Probably not. But he is a member of your local body of believers and I don’t believe it is Scripturally acceptable to kick the man to the curb if he is showing any sign of repentance.

Find a program, counselor, group, or organization that can get him help. There are several out there. Check with your denomination. Check out pirministries.org. Give him severance pay so that he can find a way beyond what has just happened and have hope. Remember that this man has sinned. Has he hurt you? Absolutely. But we are commanded to treat one another with love and restore one another to Christ.

I also remind churches that the world is watching how we will react to a sinner in our midst. This time, the sinner is the pastor. What will we do with a man who just got caught and is asking for forgiveness and is showing some level of repentance? The unbelieving world is watching how we treat those in our midst and how we treat one another.

How NOT to Respond to Your Pastor’s Sin

I think the most horrifying decision I see is when churches decide to cover up the sin. I don’t think a lot of the churches think of it that way. What I usually hear from church leaders is, “Are we doing anyone a favor when we throw him out? Isn’t it enough that we know he’s sinned? He’s repented to God and to us. Isn’t that enough?”

No, it’s not enough. I’ve blogged about it here extensively and mentioned it a few paragraphs ago. When a pastor falls, he has hidingsinned against God and he needs to make that right. But he has violated the trust of every church member in his care. He has (at least for a while) forfeit his right to hold the office of overseer.

When a church leadership team along with the pastor decides that the church “doesn’t need to know,” they are making a mistake that has repercussions that are sinful and will come to bear in many ways.

First, their decision often does not take into account the pain that the wife of the pastor is enduring. It is the case that many times the church leadership will tell the pastor, “You’ve sinned, but you can stay. But you and your wife need to take six months off for counseling.” Guess what? Six months doesn’t fix it. In my experience, the wife still has trust issues and after her husband returns to the pulpit, she watches him in that position of authority and asks, “How can he be preaching while our marriage is still in so much trouble?

On top of that, six months really doesn’t fix him either. Restoration takes a very long time to fix a man whose relationship to Christ was so broken that he committed adultery. After that, then he can work on his marriage.

Second, when I talk to churches about their decision to retain the pastor, I will almost always eventually hear, “Well, if he leaves, we’re going to lose a lot of people. He sure brought a lot of people here and they’ll leave if he leaves.” I cannot imagine a more selfish, man-centered response. The leadership is really saying one of two things (if you care to read between the lines): “We can’t do the Scriptural thing because our attendance will decline. Membership numbers are more important than standing by doing what is right.” Or, the more frightening alternative: “We can’t get rid of him, the offering will be lighter.

When I counsel pastors who have committed adultery and haven’t told anyone, they are very worried about losing their jobs. Of course they are. It’s scary. It’s usually the only job we have. It’s what we spent our lives training for. And if we lose it, what are we going to do? But it’s a consequence of our sin. We knew that when we crossed the line.

directionBut there’s always hope. I always tell guys, “You know what? Telling people the truth and being honest is always the right thing to do. It’s not easy, in fact, it hurts. But I can promise you that God always helps and stands by those who make the decision to start walking again in the right direction.

Third, when church leadership decides to hide the truth from the congregation, it doesn’t stay hidden. It will eventually come out. It may come out a year later or I’ve seen it come out 20 years later. But the truth comes out. And the members say, “Why didn’t you tell us? Why would you allow our pastor who committed adultery to keep preaching? Don’t you think we deserved to be informed?”

Still, some of you are unconvinced. The church needs to know. And a wise, loving, caring leadership with a biblically based message can share the truth of what the pastor did in the right way. Moreover, the leadership will have a team of people or experts on hand to help the congregation through it all.

Worse yet, when you hide such a thing from the congregation, you’re keeping a secret from everyone. You’re asking every leaders, the pastor’s spouse, his family, those involved, and anyone else who knows to keep quiet. You’re telling them to keep this horrible secret to themselves and never talk about it to anyone. To push down the hurt, pain and grief over a sin that needs to be dealt with.

It’s just not right. And that’s why church leadership needs to be trained in this before it happens. That’s why they need to know how to handle this situation beforehand. Lovingly, with wisdom. They need to know what resources exist. They need to be able to discuss openly with one another how they would deal with such an ordeal if it ever occurred.

Pray to God it never would. But be prepared if it does. Because if it does, people’s hearts need to be protected. Individuals need to be counseled and healed. A pastor and his family need to be embraced. And the truth of God needs to be uncompromising.

Next time, we will look at the post-pastor fallout and how to deal with the church members.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Get The Facts Straight

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t Read Into The Situation

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

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

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

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

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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.

Why I Do This Ministry

Today I had two significant phone calls.

One was to an old friend who told me that my book helped him give him the energy to give him the courage to get back into the ministry again.

The other, I can’t really talk about. I’ve gone a month without an email from anyone. A month without a contact. A month without a person emailing me. No fallen pastors. No fallen pastor’s wives. There was one person in there that who needed help. But it has not been like it has been.

But today…

Please pray for the person who contacted me today. Please. It was the most challenging contact of my ministry since I started five years ago. It was as if God was saying, “I’m giving you a month off, now deal with this, my son.”

I love my Lord. I love this ministry. I do it for free. I expect no donations, no money, no reward. The only reward I get is when the ministers say to me, “I didn’t think anyone understood me. Now I know I’m not alone.” That is what brings tears to my eyes. That is reward enough.

I started watching “The Wire” – the TV show, recently. I couldn’t get through it. Even though people said it was one of the best TV shows ever, I didn’t care for it. Sorry. I loved Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, etc. But there was a moment that stuck out for me. A character said to another, “When they ask you what you don’t want to do, don’t tell them.” In other words, the sergeant was saying that he had done something wrong. His commanding officer was asking, “What don’t you want to do?” And his answer would have been to assign him to do that thing.

When I fell from ministry, I don’t know what I would have said to God, “what I don’t want to do.” But right now, I’m in the midst of helping other fallen pastors. They are in the same shape I was five years ago. I see them struggling. I seem them justifying their sin. I see them trying to make sense of it all.

I see them with so few answers. But I can guide them. But they don’t want the answers. They want justification. They want a way out so often.

I hurt. I am in pain for them.

I want to grab them by the shoulders and say, “Listen to me! I know where you are! I can help you!

But they think they know what is right. But it’s like talking to your kids. They have to figure it out on your own. So be it.

I still love them. I will listen and love. And be there while they mourn and kick and frustrate and cry. That’s what I do. I love fallen pastors. Because I was there. They are my people.

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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.

Is Your Church Equipped to Handle Ministry Failure?

It is my strong belief that most churches and leaders are not ready to handle the failure of a church leader. But even before that happens, I believe that it can and should be prevented.

This video is an invitation to church leaders, associational missionaries, church members, pastors and anyone who wants to prevent ministry failure in their churches. It is also a call to fallen pastors to heal and be restored back to Christ.

There seems to be a grassroots movement of people who are becoming concerned about this issue. I hope that’s the case. If you’d like to help, please share this short video and/or this website with people and their churches so that we might see ministry failure due to sexual sin stopped before it gets started.

__________________

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.

What Is Ministry?

I’ve had a lot of questions asked of me over the past few years. Fallen pastors ask me a lot, “Is God done with me? Will I ever be worthy pewsenough to do some kind of ministry?” (Short answers, no and yes.)

Then, I’ve had a chance to reflect on what I used to do as a pastor and what I do now, helping fallen pastors and those affected by moral failure in the church. And it has come down to one question: “What is ministry?

When I was pastoring, I think I equated ministry with working hard, studying the Bible, visiting, baptizing, putting in new programs, and making sure everyone was relatively happy. And those things can lead to ministry. But I’ve learned that in themselves, they aren’t ministry.

In the same way, I can blog, answer emails, Twitter, and write. Those things can lead to some form of ministry, but in and of themselves, they aren’t necessarily ministry.

As a pastor, I did a lot of things to “punch the clock” and put in my time. I wrote letters, made visits, preached sermons, taught Sunday School, and a lot of other tasks. Tasks. Lots of ministry is task oriented. When Jesus washed the feet of the disciples, he was doing a task. But at some point, it became ministry.

When do our tasks become ministry? Better yet, how can we ensure that our tasks are ministry and not just fool’s errands with no spiritual value?

I knew a little back in the day but it never really registered until I started helping other fallen pastors. It wasn’t until I was on the phone with these men, weeping with them, letting them know that life wasn’t over, telling them that Christ really did love them, that despite their sin, God heals and restores the repentant. It was about instilling hope.

It wasn’t any hope I had to offer, but the hope that Christ gives us because we belong to Him. That despite our worst failures, His grace covers our sin. The future may look bleak because of what we’ve done, but when we fall at His feet, we find that all ground is level at the foot of the cross.

And that’s where I found a definition of ministry. Ministry is being able to be Christ for a person when they need it the most. I’m not talking about having a God-complex in ministry. I’m talking about believers having Christ within us and being the servants we are called to be. And at the moment we are needed, we speak the compassion, love and truth of Christ into the life of the person who needs it most.

When I was task-oriented, I got tired of “ministry.” But that wasn’t ministry. It was errand running. But now, I find myself being able to speak the love and truth into the lives of people who need hope.

When those moments happen, I find myself in love with ministry. Ministry like I never knew it before. The ministry I was called to. A life of giving everything we have to Christ so He can love the people in this world and show them His love.

Other helpful links:

Ministry Means Service,” Grace Communion International

What is Ministry?” by Scot McKnight

What is Ministry?” from JP’s Mind

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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.

Book Review, J. R. Briggs’ “Fail”

failJ. R. Briggs’ book, “Fail,” (IVP, Praxis) is a work that I know will help many pastors, ministers, and men who visit this blog. It’s a book about ministry failure. More specifically, it examines failure in the light of our unrealistic views of success in modern ministry. Further, Briggs speaks to the heart of failed, broken ministers to guide and encourage them back to restoration.

Brigg’s publisher sent me a copy for review. Since that time, he’s been interviewed by Ed Stetzer for Christianity Today, Patheos, Rachel Held Evans, Lockerdome, and many others. I don’t know what I can add that these excellent bloggers might have missed.

I’m a simple pastor who fell five years ago in adultery. That’s what this blog is all about. Every week I get two to three emails from fallen pastors, their wives, their mistresses, or their churches asking how to put the pieces back together again. I wrote a book about it four years ago trying to understand moral failure. Since that time, I’ve been eagerly searching for any help out there. I’ve been looking for people I can network with, resources, counselors, or people with like minds.

J. R. Briggs’ book is a resource I can trust and recommend to any fallen pastor.

When this book was suggested to me, it went straight to the top of my reading list. This site is dedicated to helping ministers and pastors who have fallen and failed because of moral issues. For the past five years, I have been looking for any allies who understand the process. There are a little pockets of people who truly understand ministry failure, but they are scattered throughout the country.

While I was reading, “Fail,” I found a brother in arms who understood failure. Briggs notes that his focus is not on one kind of failure. His own failure was due to high expectations. Instead, he focuses on the dearth of ministry failure and those who suffer from it. My own ministry focuses so much on moral failure that I had never taken time to consider ministry failure in general. The symptoms, causes, fallout, and restoration of both are almost identical.

Briggs writes about ministry failure as a man who understands it. He is practical and yet gritty when he needs to be. It’s a gritty topic that some people can’t handle, some push off into the corner, and a lot of people don’t want to understand. The reason the topic is avoided is because there are so many tough issues tied to ministry failure: Shame, church expectations, burnout, bitterness, and frustration with God. But Briggs tackles each of these issues and gives them theological, Scriptural, and personal consideration. He does it in a way that the failed briggsminister will find immediate comfort in the words of one who understands.

Here’s the game-breaker for me. Briggs’ understanding of shame. If there is an issue failed pastors need to wrestle with, it is this one. And he understands it, dissects it, and lays it out in the open.  This was an issue I had to learn to deal with on my own, but Briggs unpacks it in a way that will help any minister dealing with the issue. Shame is one of the greatest enemies of a pastor, devaluing the worth God has given us. Briggs understands the role of shame as a negative motivator in the life of the failed minister and shows a path out.

Briggs also stands out in his passages on restoration. I had not considered that a minister who had experienced failure due to reasons other than immorality would need significant restoration. After reading, the restoration process for both are very much alike. Briggs doesn’t give a step-by-step process out of the pit; that is different for every person. He does offer tremendous guidelines and encouragement for those who are looking to find a way out of discouragement and the pain left after failure.

I definitely encourage all those who come on this site looking for help to take a look at “Fail.” It covers the topic of ministry failure in a way that is thoughtful, personal, and engaging. When you’re reading it, you’ll feel like J. R. Briggs is a close friend and companion on the path. You will definitely realize that as a minister who has failed, you are not alone and definitely not insignificant.

Fail” has a tremendous amount of information in it – it asks a lot of questions. And there is enough in there to write several books. And I hope Briggs continues to write. He blogs on his site and continues to answer many of the questions he asks. But he is strong enough to face the quandary that is facing our churches today. What are we going to do about ministry failure? What are our churches going to do to prevent it? What will our seminaries going to do? What will pastors do?

J. R. Briggs is doing a lot. But it is going to take a movement to handle the great amount of failure we see in our society. I encourage all church leaders, members, pastors, seminary leaders, and associational directors to pick this book up and read it to fight the problem.

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J. R. Briggs serves as Cultural Cultivator of The Renew Community, a Jesus community for skeptics and dreamers in Lansdale, Pennsylvania. He also serves as the Director of Leadership & Congregational Formation with the Ecclesia Network and is on staff with Fresh Expression U.S. He is the creator and curator if the Epic Fail Pastors Conference, giving pastors opportunities to process failure and grow to see failure as an invitation for grace and healing instead of shame.

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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.