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

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, affair, church, church leadership, church members, churches, conflict, fallenness, gossip, leadership, ministry, pastoring, pastors, preachers, reconciliation | Posted on 02-10-2014

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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

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, blog, ministry, pastors, reconciliation | Posted on 09-09-2014

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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?

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in book, fallenness, ministry, prevention, speaking | Posted on 18-08-2014

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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.

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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.

What Is Ministry?

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in ministry | Posted on 11-08-2014

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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”

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in book review, ministry | Posted on 09-08-2014

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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.

This Ministry, Humility, and Pride

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in blog, daughters, ministry | Posted on 06-08-2014

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The other night, my oldest daughter asked me a question I have asked myself a thousand times before. I had asked her to make a Facebook

page for my ministry, which I should have done a long time ago. A few hours later, her teenage mind had been reeling and her kind honesty wanted to know the answer to a very important question.

She has seen me look at the numbers of people who view my blog. She has seen me look at my Amazon numbers and she knows I haven’t made a dime on my book yet. She knows I get several emails a week from people who need help. But she still had a question. And I appreciated it because it was a question that was in the back of my mind. And I’m always thankful when my kids can be honest with me.

Daddy,” she asked. “I don’t want to be a jerk when I ask you this. And I don’t want this to be a jerky question.” She was sincere. It was about midnight. We were the only ones up. The television was on but there was no sound coming from it. She had set up the Facebook page about five hours before.

In the past five years, she had a front row seat for everything. She was just a child when I had committed adultery and she was the first one to forgive me for my awful sin. She had always loved me – why? Because I was her daddy. She saw me and her mother divorce. She had moved a few times within her community, watched me change, watched me go from a man who was bitter then become repentant then share with her how important it was to rest in the grace of Christ. She had seen me write a book about fallen pastors and form a blog to help those who needed a voice.

Over the years, she had heard me tell of men, women, and church leaders who needed help and had come to me for help. That everyone in this world was broken. That all of us were just a bunch of broken people who desperately needy people who needed Jesus. And in the forefront of those people, I needed Jesus the most.

But the other night, she asked me something that I had been wondering for a few years.

Daddy, what percentage of this ministry is you helping people and you needing to be popular or needing to be noticed?” she asked.

I needed someone to ask me that. I really did. And I needed to feel what it felt to be asked that. Because if there was any twinge of anger or hurt, then I had a problem. If there was any despair or guilt, then I knew I needed to get help.

For a moment in my mind, I reflected back to my pastoral days. I thought about how much I needed to please people. I’ve written about it so many times on this blog. Numbers were so important to me back then. There were days when 1oo people would show up to that community church and I would feel so happy. Then we would have an August vacation day and we would have 20 people and I would feel do disheartened. I felt like I was doing something wrong.

My response would be to start writing letters or to call people. To reach out and find out if I had done something to offend people. I thought that the church ministry had something to do with me. And that’s where I had failed. I thought church was about me. But it wasn’t. How foolish I was.

So when Abigail asked me that question, I already knew the answer. Because God is always present in giving me the answer.

Abigail,” I said. “To be honest, there are days in which my wicked heart is prideful in the numbers. My sinful heart is overjoyed with the number of people who view my blog. But those days aren’t very often.”

menabigail

Me and Abigail

Because this ministry isn’t about promoting me. It never has been. Sure, there are days when I get excited that I’ve sold a few books or a few extra people have looked at my blog, but that’s not what this is about.

I get excited when I get three emails a week from people who need help and reach out to me. But I know that I’m only reaching about five percent of the fallen pastors or people who have been affected by a fall who are out there. There are hundreds or thousands of people out there who need help and I haven’t been able to reach them. I hope they’ve found some other ministry. But I’m here to reach the ones I can.

When I promote my blog through Twitter, Facebook or other social media, I’m doing it so more people can find me. And when a church, fallen pastor, a woman who has been involved with a pastor, or anyone else can find me finds my blog, I’m overjoyed. Many of those people simply read my blog and find comfort. Some of them just email me and say ‘Thanks for a blog post, it really helped me.’ And that’s all I get. But that’s the ministry I’m called to.

I did a lot of great things when I was a pastor, but now I feel like I’m doing more effective ministry now than I ever did before. I’m reaching across continents and across the nation to help people. Abigail, you’ve heard me talk to fallen pastors, their wives, their churches, and the women they’ve been involved with. I’ve wept with them. I hurt with them.

The greatest joy I feel is when I connect with them and they say, ‘No one has understood me like you understand me.‘”

She smiled at me. Then she said, “You’re right. You’re doing a good thing to help a lot of people.

I said, “You know what really keeps me humble? What God has pride-proofed in to this? What can I really brag about this? What can I say? That I’m the greatest fallen pastor in the world? That I’m here because I committed adultery and I’m here to help people? Who’s going to ever give me an award for that? God has placed me in a position where I can never brag or get the big head. I’m always going to be the man who fell from ministry. I’m always going to be the pastor who fell. The humble pastor who is here to wash the feet of other men who need help.

That’s what is most important to me. To help the men and women across the world in ministry who are fallen who need help when no one else will help them. I’m the least helping the least.”

That made my daughter smile. And in that moment, I think I could help her understand what ministry is really all about.

Other helpful articles:

I Am a Former Pastor

3 Word to Encourage Fallen Pastors: Ron Edmonson

Thoughts on a Fallen Pastor: John Gunter

__________________

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

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

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

Fallen Pastors: 3 Very Common Questions

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, affair, brokenness, church, church leadership, fallenness, humillity, ministry, pastors, repentance, restoration | Posted on 27-06-2014

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I love helping (and am always more than happy to help) anyone who contacts me through this fallingministry, but I am closest to the messed up, confused world of the freshly fallen pastor. And it is a horrible place to be. I tell fallen pastors, “No one really understands fallen ministers like a fellow fallen minister.”

One of the most confusing things for people on the outside looking in is the messed up morality of a fallen pastor. Here’s the deal – when a guy has committed adultery for a while and hasn’t been caught, he’s not thinking clearly or biblically. And when he gets caught, he’s going to try to justify and excuse his behavior any way he can. Often, he will use Scripture to justify his sin. I tried it. It even sounded good to me at the time. But it was wrong.

To everyone else, it sounds rotten. It is rotten. That’s why I always tell people to be kind and patient with a fallen pastor. Don’t let him twist the truth, but do show him compassion. Understand that he is going to come around eventually. He is living the life of the prodigal son – one day he’s going to wake up and smell the pig droppings. And when he does, he’s going to need people who care about him.

I want to answer a couple of the most frequently messed up questions I get from fallen pastors today (I introduced this issue in my last post). The answers will seem pretty obvious. But that’s just it – when you’re waist deep in the crud of sin, the answers aren’t obvious because we aren’t looking for truth.

You know what’s even more troubling? I get these same questions from church leaders who want to ignore the sin of their pastor because they don’t want the church’s reputation to suffer damage. They would rather hide the pastor’s affair (even though his wife knows), tell the woman he had an affair with to move on (because she’s usually a church member or member of the staff) and sweep it under the rug so that the church isn’t traumatized. I’m just gonna tell you that a decision like that always comes back to haunt a church and those involved.

quesr2So here are the three most common messed up questions I get about fallen pastors – questions I even considered when I wasn’t thinking clearly when I was mired in my sin.

1. “God has forgiven me, so why do I need to tell the church/my wife what I’ve done?”

God is a God of forgiveness. That is clear. He does cast our sin as far as the east is from the west. I am thankful for the amazing grace that God has shown to us by His Son Jesus Christ.

I blogged a little about this question before but want to give the response clearly again. If you are a church leader and you have committed adultery, you should ask God for forgiveness. But you also have a duty to tell your church and leaders.

When you were hired, voted in, appointed by a council – you were given the position of head elder/pastor and expected to fulfill the duties of 1 Timothy 3:1-13. Those people put their trust in you. They expected you to be faithful to your calling and be a person above reproach. When we commit a major sin, we violate their trust. When we violate their trust, we need to let them know and we have come under church discipline.

The same goes for our spouse. We took a vow. And even if we commit “emotional adultery,” there is something wrong in our marriage that needs to be fixed right away. If it doesn’t get fixed, we are going to do it again. Our spouse deserves to know that we violated our vow and that we have become vulnerable to sin.

2. “I committed adultery/had an emotional affair with a woman in the church. sorrycoupIt’s okay if she stays at the same church as I do, right?”

When guys ask me this question, I know a couple of things. First, they are in trouble spiritually and morally. They are not thinking clearly. Why? Because they think they are/or may actually be in love with the woman they are having an affair with. They cannot stand being apart from her. They don’t want to be away from her.

Second, if at this point a pastor has “only” admitted to an “emotional affair” and he asks this question – I can almost bank on the fact that he has crossed the line into the physical but he’s just not being forthcoming about it.

The big problem is this – if a man has been caught and he’s saying all the “right” things like, “I know I’ve sinned and I want to make things right with my wife.” But his actions are saying, “I still want to be around this woman and I’m still texting her and talking to her,” then what he’s saying and what he’s doing are two different things. He’s not repentant. He’s still trapped.

Listen carefully though. I have a tremendous amount of concern for the woman the pastor has been involved with. I think churches should have the same amount of concern, especially if she is a member or a part of the staff.

Back to the issue at hand. Pastor, if you have committed adultery and you want your marriage to work out, you’ve got to distance yourself permanently from the person you were with. End of story. On top of that, you have to be transparent for a long time with your wife about your cell phone, email, Facebook and anything else you have passwords on. Give her access to everything. It’s freedom. It one step back towards trust.

repenta3. “I’ll be okay pretty quick, right? I won’t be out the ministry very long.”

When you get caught, what you need is to be restored to Christ. Something went wrong. Lots of somethings. I write about it on this blog and in my book. Those things need to be fixed before any kind of ministry can ever happen again. A life of brokenness and humility need to occur while God restores you.

This doesn’t happen overnight. It doesn’t happen in a few weeks. If you’re lucky, it might happen in a year. It happens in God’s timing.

But when you’re honest about your sin and how you came to it, God will be longsuffering and will heal your heart. It’s not easy being honest, but it is rewarding. It’s tough, but it is the narrow road for those who want peace.

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

Other helpful links:

Sexual Sin in the Ministry” by Harry Schaumburg, Desiring God Ministries

Pastors on Moral Failures in Church Leadership: Don’t Hide It” by Lillian Kwon, Christian Post

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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.

What Can The SBC Do About Adulterous Pastors?

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in fallenness, Fred Luter, ministry, southern baptist | Posted on 13-06-2014

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This post was originally written on 2/28/13. I modified it today to reflect changes in my own heart over time. You can read the original post here.

sbccWhat can the SBC do about adulterous pastors? I don’t ask this question lightly. And I do it with a heavy heart. I also do it as a lifetime Southern Baptist. I ask it as a fallen pastor who committed adultery while serving as a pastor over four years ago. I ask it knowing the ins and outs of the largest protestant denomination in the United States.

I also ask it as a man who has talked to many fallen Southern Baptist pastors in the past three years. Some of them fell, chose not to repent and kept living a sinful life. However, many of them got help, repented, walked a path of holiness and were restored to a relationship with Christ.

There are some issues to be looked at before anything else is said. First, Southern Baptists pride themselves in their autonomy. The Southern Baptist Convention is a meeting that takes place once a year to make resolutions and talk about missions. The other 51 weeks a year, each church makes decisions on their own, based on the basic rules of faith set out in The Baptist Faith and Message. Not all Baptist churches agree with one another on all details. Some churches might elect divorce deacons to serve, other may not. Some might allow female music ministers, others may find that idea horrendous.

There is some diversity within the practice of the Baptist churches, but all pretty much agree on the doctrines of their faith. Some might even have stricter guidelines within their association regarding other issues, but most follow general Baptist principles.

The crux of the problem is one I have shared over and over again – pastors are leaving the pulpit in large numbers each week due to moral failure. There are statistics to back this up. I can also back this up with anecdotal evidence. I get emails everyday from pastors who have fallen, the wives of fallen pastors, and the women who have committed adultery with pastors.

In my book, I outline warning signs that lead pastors to commit adultery. In the end, it is their sin, theirs to own. It seems that on a regular basis, we hear of these stories. I even quote one statistic that 33% of conservative pastors have had an inappropriate relationship with a member of the opposite sex and have kept it under wraps.

thrownUnfortunately, it would appear that the most common response in the Southern Baptist church is to remove the pastor immediately from the pulpit and push him away. No counseling, no help, no kind of compassion or attempt to reach out to him. Yes, most of the time, when he is caught he is defensive or he is going on a course of his own. But it is my conviction that a large group of Christians have the duty to at least reach out in the spirit of Galatians 6:1 and pursue the pastor.

But for the most part, in my interviews with pastors, in my counseling with them, this does not happen. Do most of them want it at that moment? No. But should that stop us? No. When someone is caught in sin, rarely do they desire to hear about God. But that is when we must pursue them the most.

When I fell three years ago and when I began to understand the great sin I had committed against God, I started to look for help within the SBC. The closest thing I found was a church in the South that ran a program of restoration. They had over 400 applicants a year, but were only to take on about 18.

I understand the main focus of the SBC. Missions, the Great Commission, discipleship. I respect that. We should be people who are missional. We should be reaching people for the Gospel. The funds we drive for every year for the cooperative program does so much good. In fact, it helped me get through seminary.

In the last post I wrote about this, I was calling for the SBC to do more to help fallen pastors. It was my hope that my beloved denomination would put a program in place to reach out to help those pastors who had left the ministry because of moral failure.

Here was my inner monologue: “Well, we put a lot of resources into training men for ministry, so why don’t we seem to care about these same men when they fall from ministry? What I see are men who have fallen from a great height. The SBC has a large number of resources, like the North American Mission Board who could help these men. Surely these men would be considered a mission.”

I had an awakening of sorts. Over time, I realized a couple of things. It all came together when I had the honor of sitting down with SBC president Fred Luter. He talked about a lot of great things going on in the SBC and I was able to fluter6share with him the number of fallen pastors within our own denomination. He seemed a little shocked.

At that moment, I realized that the SBC does a lot of wonderful things. But they’re also limited in their resources. They can’t do everything. At the moment I realized that, I started thinking back to my time when I served as a pastor of a small church.

Our resources were limited. We could handle a lot of things, but not everything. When someone would come up and say, “We really should start a summer program for kids,” or “maybe we should start a preschool.” All I could think was, “We don’t have the money. Are you kidding?”

Before and while I was meeting with Pastor Luter, I was thinking, “Does the SBC really need to start a program for fallen pastors? Maybe God has already started one.”

Almost five years ago when I started blogging anonymously, I never would have conceived that I would be getting emails from people who needed help on a daily basis. Fallen Pastor is a ministry. There are other ministries out there that I network with that are doing the same thing.

I’m not discounting the SBC when I say that God is doing something outside of the denominational sphere to help fallen pastors. I talk to all kinds of people from different backgrounds. I don’t have to answer to a denomination or clock into an office. God saw fit to turn my mess into a ministry. That’s where I am right now and I’m more than happy to be here. He’s even involved my wife to counsel women who are involved with pastors.

Comparing my feelings now with my previous post – no, I don’t think the SBC needs to be involved. Not because they wouldn’t be able to a great job. But because God has graced others with the work. And I’m overwhelmed with the prospect.

His love, grace, and mercies never cease.

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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 Churches Aren’t Growing: Transparency & The Fallen Church

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in apology, bitterness, church, church face, church members, community, evangelism, fallenness, forgiveness, ministry, reconciliation, relationships, restoration | Posted on 12-05-2014

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altarSo if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. (Matthew 5:23-24 ESV)

I write a lot about reconciliation and forgiveness. There are several reasons for this.

First, I was horrible at it before I fell. I was an awful example to my family, my friends, and my congregation. I now know what it’s like to be the one who desperately wants to be reconciled with people I have harmed.

Secondly, one of my reasons for blogging is that I want to see churches and fallen pastors reconcile. Some churches actually handle the process the right way. They approach the pastor when they discover his indiscretion, they help he and his family get help as they depart and stay in contact with him.

However, this is a rarity. Most churches harbor bitterness, anger, and never get over the event. I do not believe this is the will of Christ. As the verse above states (and many others), those who have been sinned against should be the initiators of reconciliation and forgiveness. As I have stated before, this does not mean letting the minister back to a place of authority necessarily, but it does mean love and forgiveness.

There are a lot of verses about forgiveness. Some put the onus on the one who sinned. But the verse above and others put the responsibility on the one who was sinned against.

In the Southern Baptist Convention, there are literally hundreds of churches that have been hurt by fallen pastors. Some of these churches have not made amends or reconciled with these pastors.

Do not hear me placing full blame on these churches. If you’ve read my previous posts on the matter, you will know that is not how I feel. angry churchThese men fell and sinned. Sometimes, they get pompous after their fall and immediately try to return to ministry. They become recalcitrant and egotistical. I understand that.

However, there is a responsibility for churches to reconcile with repentant fallen pastors.

The majority of our Southern Baptist churches are not growing. There are many reasons for this. Could I suggest that one of the many reasons for it is that we have a lot of junk in our souls that needs to be cleansed?

I know of one local church whose pastor left forty years ago on bad terms. He didn’t even sin morally. It was just a bad situation where he got into an argument with a deacon and his family who “ran the church.” Ever since that time, the church has replaced the pastor every three years like clockwork. The family who was “in charge” is still there running the show.

When you ask an outsider what is going on at that church they always point back at the event that happened forty years ago. That’s a shame.

That makes me concerned about churches all across the nation. It makes me concerned about the church where I fell, and it is my fault. It makes me concerned about the churches where other pastors fell who haven’t taken the time to heal or reconcile with the pastor.

Two things are happening in churches like that. First, a dynamic of distrust can set in where congregations will always have a weary eye of the pastor. And secondly, if the people never forgive, there is the constant sin of unforgiveness in the midst that will hinder worship, growth, and spiritual awareness.

I had a funny thought about evangelism as well. Would churches affected by a fall be less likely to evangelize? Would they be less likely to invite people in knowing that they might have potential sins to deal with?

In our Southern Baptist churches, we do a superb job of putting on a “happy face” each Sunday. We sit up straight, sing when we’re cued to, and shake hands.

nogrowthIf you have kids though, you know that the ride to church is completely different. “Don’t hit your sister! Be quiet back there! You’d better stop complaining about going to church! Don’t act up during the sermon this week!

And each Sunday during Sunday School a topic will come up and we’ll shake our heads at the sinful topic brought up. Lust? “We shouldn’t do that, but you know everyone struggles once in a while.” Greed? “That’s a terrible thing, we should store up our treasures in heaven.” Anger? “Well, righteous anger is fine, but Jesus said love your neighbor.

What if we were transparent during Sunday School? Lust? “Yes, I fight it daily, friends. Each day I struggle. Will you please pray for me?” Greed? “I’ve run three credit cards past their limit and it’s out of control.” Anger? “Me and my wife are having problems. I need help from someone. Can anyone here help me?

What about during the week? What if we acted at church like we did at work? What if the pastor walked in on us at our most sinful moment? What if people saw us worried about our finances, fighting with our spouses, angry with our co-workers, cussing at the mechanic who messed up our car, kicking the cat, etc.?

If we acted at church like we did during the week – now that would be transparent. To have people see us as we really are – broken, sinful, wrecked, miserable, depressed. Because under those Baptist smiles are broken, sinful people who really need help.

When I was a pastor and would go to my bi-vocational job, people would cuss in front of me without knowing I was a pastor. When they found out, they’d say, “I’m sorry, I didn’t know you were a preacher.”

I’d say, “Why are you sorry to me? You didn’t do anything to me. Be yourself.”computer

Why don’t we act around our church friends like we do around our weekday friends? We’re not transparent.

But guess what? God sees right through us. And yet, He loves us still. He shows us grace and mercy.

But, if one of us sees a church member sin or a church leader fall, we judge them harshly. And quickly. And we gossip. No grace. No mercy. Only judgment.

Know why we’re in decline? Because most of us (and I’m including myself in this) don’t look a thing like Christ and His grace when it comes to dealing with one another, much less non-Christians.

We haven’t forgiven those who have sinned against us. We harbor anger, bitterness and rage when long ago we should have reached out and shown mercy as Christ has shown to us.

But strangely enough, each of us will pile into our cars on Sunday, looking our best, put on our Baptist smiles and push down our troubles.

It doesn’t have to be that way. If we were all transparent, (because we practiced being real in front of one another) if we left our Baptist smiles at the door, shared our hurts with one another, reconciled our pasts, then looked out into our community and realized that we’re just like everyone else, we might just be fueled for evangelism.

Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:1 ESV)

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.

Could Your Church Survive Without You?

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in burnout, church, church members, churches, expectations, leadership, ministry, pastoral care, pastoring, pastors, prevention, responsibility, rest | Posted on 06-05-2014

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It’s a question for all pastors. And think about it for a minute before you answer: “Could your church survive without you for two panicweeks?

Your immediate, heart-felt response is your honest answer. If it’s “yes,” you probably don’t have much to worry about. But you might want to keep reading because there might be something here for you.

If you shrugged a little and thought, “maybe,” or said a firm, “no,” then there are a few things you might want to consider.

I don’t want to discount the fact that pastoring is a very difficult job. And when a minister has been at a church for a while and has things running well, has it fine-tuned, and knows the people, it’s can feel like a well-oiled machine. It can really feel that way when the pastor has taken on responsibilities that no one else will do or he’s started programs that only he knows the inner workings of.

A minister can even feel more irreplaceable when he has done things that he feels no one else will do. For instance, I know small church pastors who clean toilets. Who wants to do that? I know mega-church pastors who are so well-connected in their state and national conventions that they feel they are at the top of their game. No one in their church could do that kind of thing.

When we’re pastoring, we do a lot of tasks that are difficult and unseen. We visit the sick, we hold the hands of the dying, we visit people in prison, we pray for the lost, we counsel members going through difficult situations – things people never hear about. And that’s fine. But pastors are often frustrated by complaints of, “Why didn’t you visit my aunt when she had her knee surgery?

It’s a difficult job to keep up with so much and to stay on top of the preaching of the Word.

And don’t get me wrong. Most pastors are extremely valued by their churches. I post a lot of statistics on here about ministry burnout and cautious warnings about failure. But ministers are in the ministry because they love Christ and they love people.

pastorsignBut there is something to remember for all of us –  especially those who minister. We are not irreplaceable.

When I wrote my book about fallen pastors, I found four factors that weakened ministers that led them to consider adultery. One was unrealistic expectations. Most of those unrealistic expectations come from the minister himself. Over time, a pastor gets so locked in to performing the act of routine ministry that he loses sight of personal worship, his family, and chasing after Christ. He can also begin to inflate his own self-importance within the church.

It doesn’t happen to everyone. But it’s slow and seductive. It can very mildly with thoughts like, “Look at all I do and I don’t get any appreciation for it,” “These people don’t ever thank me,” “All I do is bust my rear end around here and people just complain and nag,” “I can’t even remember the last time I got a raise. I’d be happy with a thank you card.”

There may even be some truth in those statements. But behind them is bitterness. Bitterness stems from anger. But who are we angry with? The ministry? The church? God? Ourselves? When we find ourselves in such a place, it’s a good time to return to God and His Word and begin asking questions of ourselves.

That’s why the question, “Could your church survive without you for two weeks?” is so important. Because the answer is, “yes.”

I remember having some of those same thoughts I just listed. I know a lot of pastors feel that same way. And in moments of anger, there were times I would answer that question, “No, they couldn’t. Who would put together the bulletin, make phone calls, make visits, preach the sermons, counsel, etc.?

In my case, it was frustration. I remember reaching out to a mentor of mine and sharing my feelings with him. He said, “Ray, every pastor I burnedoutknow has felt the same way. What you need to do is let go of trying so hard. You have to let go of trying to let programs fix everything. Just use the Word of God and concentrate on those who want to grow. Christ said He would grow the church. You’re trying to do it for Him.”

He was right. That’s what I did. Not only did it work, but it took a great weight off me.

What would happen if you were gone for two weeks? The church would function. Even if you were gone tomorrow, it would function. You are there by appointment from God. There to minister the Word of God into the lives of the people. Allow Him to work through you. I promise He doesn’t want you burned out, stressed, screaming, angry, full of anguish, and preaching with venom every week.

He promised us peace. Live in it and share it with those in your fellowship.

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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.