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Humbling Circumstances Do Not Equal Humility

I remember after my fall from the pastorate, it was a terrible four or five months there for a while. My mother had died a half a year before, I got caught in adultery, left the church, was living on my own again, was getting some pretty nasty messages on occasion, was angry at everyone, and was working...

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3 Sources of High Expectations For Pastors

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in church leadership, church members, churches, culture, expectations, pastoring, pastors | Posted on 02-07-2014

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A 2001 Barna study shared the following information: “Church-goers expect their pastor to juggle an average of 16 major tasks. That’s a recipe for failure – nobody can handle the wide range of responsibilities that people expect pastors to master.”

That was one of the most interesting statistics I found while doing research for my book, Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World. That statistic reflects what I believe many pastors feel is the cause of killer expectations – the congregation or a controlling group of church leaders. What I discovered in writing was that blaming one side was incompatible with what was really going on in today’s churches.

Before I wrote my book, I thought I knew a lot about high expectations for pastors. I had practical experience, but it was nothing compared to what I learned after studying statistics and interviewing fallen pastors. If a pastor does not understand expectations rightly, misconstrues them, or does not have the right center, he stands the danger of burnout or worse.

Expectations come from many places. First, there are congregational expectations. What does the congregation expect out of their pastor? What did the pulpit committee tell the pastor when he was hired? Have those expectations changed as the church has grown or declined in attendance? Does the church setting make a difference? Is the church’s set of expectations based on Scripture, bylaws or any written standard that can be measured quantitatively? Do church expectations come from a leadership council or the entire congregation?

“Any idea outside of Scripture attributed to the pastor should be discussed and agreed upon between pastor and church leadership. Any unspoken or assumed expectations can be harmful for both parties.”

All of these questions can help sort out where congregational expectations come from. I had a friend in seminary who pastored a rural church that voted on whether to keep him every year. It had been in the bylaws since a pastor had fallen over six decades earlier. I know of churches who pass out pastoral satisfaction surveys on occasion.

Secondly, expectations also come from within the pastor. These are typically the strongest expectations pastors wrestle with. Pastors who are perfectionists are rarely satisfied with the job they are doing. These men often work long hours with the idea in mind that they are never quite fulfilling every need in the church. Somewhere in their brain, they perceive unmet needs among the congregation that they could be fixing or making better. They are hard workers, but without a system of realistic and Scriptural expectations, these men experience tremendous burnout.

perfectPastors can experience several things that can warp their view of expectations upon them. One is pastoral competition or self-competition. A lot of guys love to talk about numbers. When pastors meet, (they might not admit it) they intrinsically measure success by the number of people in their congregation or total budgets.

While many give lip-service to the idea that, “I’d be happy preaching to one person each Sunday,” there seems to be an innate drive to move forward to the next big thing. Even if they aren’t comparing numbers with other pastors, a lot of young pastors are taught a business model of church where moving on to the next big position is just a natural progression.

Of course, this isn’t always true. There are always exceptions and we all know of men who are content with the congregations they serve. The point is that this drive from without or within can lead to a warped view of success and high expectations.

The third place expectations come is from God. This is where high proper expectations should come from. God has a high expectation for those He calls. 1 Timothy 3:1-7 is the most common passage quoted when listing the moral qualifications for an overseer:  “If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.” (ESV)

There is discussion over some of the specific ideas in this passage, but for the most part, it is agreed that God expects His leaders to have a certain level of morality and moral leadership. Ultimately, God’s standard is the greatest standard. Any idea outside of Scripture attributed to the pastor should be discussed and agreed upon between pastor and church leadership. Any unspoken or assumed expectations can be harmful for both parties.

The warped view of high expectations (whether from congregations, from within, or both) can be seen in one of two examples, although there are surely more.

If congregations or leadership have expectations that are too high, unspoken, or unrealistic for the pastor, he can become frustrated in his duties. Despite his normal duties of teaching and preaching, he can become overwhelmed with a myriad of other tasks. He can become party to this as well if he takes on tasks without asking for help or communicating clearly to his people. Pastors who believe they can or should do everything will experience a large amount of frustration, leading to potential burnout.

Sometimes, churches are unaware they are adding to these high expectations. Many people mean well or are unsure of how to approach the pastor but can say things that come across as hurtful to the pastor: “Our old pastor didn’t do it like that,” “You only work one day a week, surely you can do more,” “Why haven’t you visited more people?” “There sure haven’t been many people here lately.” People often mean well or aren’t thinking when they make statements like this, but need to be aware of the weight their words carry. Most pastors spend all week concentrating on the church and the duties he performs and takes his job very seriously.

High expectations happen to everyone, but understanding their source is of great importance. Pastoral/Church communication about correct expectations can prevent church disappointment, pastoral burnout but can also promote proper church health and focus on Christ’s community and everyone’s role within it.

Other helpful articles about pastor expectations:

How Many Hours Must a Pastor Work to Satisfy the Congregation?” by Thom Rainer

What Are Pastors Supposed to Do For You?” by Mark D. Roberts

Your Pastor is Only Human! Here’s What He Wants You To Know” by Tim Franklin

Look at These Expectations on a Pastor’s Time. Then Take a Day Off.” by Trend Watch

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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.

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.

When a Pastor Falls 2: Confronting the Pastor

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, affair, church leadership, churches, deacons, Hershael York, leadership, ministry, pastoring, pastors, reconciliation, repentance, restoration | Posted on 10-04-2014

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This series is about how church leadership can effectively handle the fall of their pastor when he has been accused of sexual Three businessmen having meeting in officeimmorality. It is a horrible situation for any church to find themselves in. It is seemingly a no-win situation for anyone. But it is a situation that more and more churches find themselves in. I am a fallen pastor and over the past four years, I have counseled many fallen ministers and hurt churches and I hope to help others find a way through this process that creates healing for all involved.

Please take time to read part one here. Today, we will focus on meeting with the minister after all the facts have been gathered, the pastor’s response, and how to minister to the fallen pastor’s spouse.

Meeting With the Minister

There are two situations you could be facing when you meet with him. You’ll either have evidence of his adultery or you won’t. Either way, what should you do? I suggest you have a straightforward meeting. It’s not the time for any type of mind games. Always remember that God is in control of every situation. If there’s sin involved, God is always at work and will be the one to take care of it.

Before the pastor arrives, make sure the church leadership is on the same page about what you’re going to discuss. If there is any disagreement whatsoever about how to handle the meeting, take care of it before the pastor arrives. The church leadership needs to be of one mind and heart before the meeting takes place.

Agree that this is not an angry confrontation. This is a meeting among brothers in Christ. There are two things to always remember. First, how would you want to be treated if you were the one being confronted about a possible sin in your life? Second, always remember Galatians 6:1: “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.

upsetIt’s best if just one leader does most of the talking so you can stay on point. You’ll probably know which of you is best suited for the job. If you don’t think any of you are able to do it, ask an outside mediator to help. A pastor from another church you trust, an associational director, or a strong Christian from the community.

Then, it’s time for the meeting. If you don’t have any physical evidence, share with him what you do have then let him speak. If you have evidence, let it be addressed.

The Pastor’s Reaction

I’ve been blogging here for four years. I’ve been talking to fallen pastors for the same amount of time. There are all kinds of pastors out there. When a pastor falls, it’s always a shock. Sometimes a pastor falls and the church can’t believe such a wonderful man of God could do such a thing, but he’s been committing adultery behind his wife and the church’s back for ten years. I’ve talked to churches whose pastor had kids with other women years ago and no one knew about it.

What I’m saying is that each situation is different. And when you sit down to talk to your pastor about suspected sexual immorality, he may be completely innocent. Then again, the man you are talking to may have been putting on a front for years that you have been fooled by. I got away with it for a few months. Some get away with it for years. In some ways, all of us know how to put up a front and keep people from knowing who we really are.

When you sit down and confront a pastor about his sin, he may break down and confess everything. He may have been wanting to get caught. But some will flat out deny everything. Even if you have the most compelling evidence in the world, they may lie and try to talk their way out of it. They may say, “Well, I was involved emotionally with someone.” Or they might say, “Whoever gave you that information is crazy. How long have you known me?”

That’s why this calls for discernment on the part of church leadership. That’s why you have to have your information together. That’s why when you talk to the minister about this, you have to gauge his reaction carefully. You should be able to tell pretty quickly whether he is involved in sin. It should be apparent to everyone in the room. And whatever response he gives, it needs to be handled with love, grace and compassion.

The Proper Response

I’m going to write more later about how church leadership should handle the pastor when sexual immorality is confirmed, but I defensivewant to share this quote from Dr. Hershael York. He’s the preaching professor at Southern Seminary and runs an excellent site at pastorwell.com. I interviewed him for my book and asked him how a church should respond to a pastor when they find out about his sin. When should they help him recover and get him counseling and when should they just let him go? Here’s what he said:

“A church’s posture has to be guided by whether or not there is repentance, because your posture has to be one thing if a person is living in defiance and embracing their sin. Then you have to confront. 1 Corinthians 5 kicks in and Paul describes as turning them over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh. There’s nothing pretty about that. But if a person is broken and repentant over their sin, even if they want to be and they’re not there yet, but they want to be.

“They may say, ‘It’s hard for me to leave this 23 year old girl who thinks I hung the moon and go back to a wife I struggled with for the past 20 years, but I want to do that because it honors the Lord.’ Well, if a guy says that, then by all means, you’ve got to walk that walk with him, or see that someone does. Because sometimes the unity of the church matters too and the leaders in the church have to take care of the church but what they cannot do is just abandon the one in sin and say, ‘Well, you’re on your own.’”

The Pastor’s Wife

upsetwomanNot to be forgotten about in all of this is the pastor’s wife and his family. When a pastor is caught in adultery, his wife is absolutely devastated. Most often, the pastor cheats on her with a staff member, church support staff, or a family friend. Church leadership needs to be able to be ready to surround the pastor’s spouse with support.

I have seen wives who decide to stay with their husbands and they are shown scorn from people in the church for doing so. I have also seen the opposite – wives who leave their husbands and are shown contempt for doing so. It is a traumatic event for the spouse and what she needs is not to be surrounded by people telling her “you need to divorce that creep” or “you know, the Bible says divorce is a sin.” Advice given may be correct, but what the spouse needs for such an awful moment are people who are willing to simply comfort her, cry with her, and allow her to be herself.

Helpful article on helping the pastor’s wife during a crisis:

Helping Your Pastor’s Wife After a Church Crisis” by Paraleko

Next time, I want to focus on the church’s public response to the pastor’s adultery.

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, 1: Help For Leaders

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 08-04-2014

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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.

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.

____________________________

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.

Help For Bob Coy and Calvary Chapel

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in church members, churches, current events, fallenness, pastoring, pastors | Posted on 07-04-2014

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I just heard about Pastor Bob Coy of Calvary Chapel in Florida. I don’t know him personally, but he has announced his resignation as pastor due to moral failure. I fell four years ago and have run this ministry and writing here ever since. I’ve been able to help a lot of people during that time.

I want to encourage Pastor Coy and let him know I’m here and willing to help. I’m here for the church leadership if they want to talk. And I’m here for the church members and anyone involved. I’m here because I care and I know how much it hurts. Anything you say or send to me is confidential. If you don’t want to talk to me, I have a network of people who can help.

Pastor Coy and people of Calvary Chapel, I care. I’m praying for you. I’m here for all of you.

I wanted to repost the blog below because I thought it might help those involved. The original title is,When the Pastor Gets Caught.”

The day comes out of nowhere and the news hits everyone hard. Everyone learns that the pastor has committed adultery. Or, for that matter, they’ve discovered he’s embezzled or been lying about something horrible.

Everyone has a different reaction. I was a pastor and I fell when I committed adultery. I had kept it secret for a few months, but sadyou can’t sin under wraps forever.

What I knew then about the reactions of people is different from what I know now. I’ve spent the last four years ministering to fallen pastors, the church members and leaders who were hurt, their wives, and even the women they had the affair with.

In this post, I want to share with you the reactions that I’ve heard from people when their pastor falls. Why? Because I’ve learned something very important over the years – one of the most important things anyone can do is listen to what people are saying. When a pastor falls, the most important thing a church can do is listen. If we don’t listen, we can’t communicate. If we aren’t listening to the real hurt and concern of the people around us, we will never get to a place where we understand one another.

Everyone has the right to react and feel hurt. Everyone has the right to feel disappointment in the person they listened to, trusted and loved.

I remember when I was writing my book, I was still having anger toward people who were lashing out at me about what I did. One of the most helpful conversations I had was with Dr. Hershael York who basically told me, “Ray, you don’t get the right to get angry with those people when they lash out in anger. You’re the one who committed adultery. You put them in that position. Even if their anger is unbiblical, which they’ll have to answer for, you need to keep silent. That’s part of being humble.

He was right. Now I’d like to share with you some of the things I’ve heard from people over the past few years. I’m writing them so that we can see the larger picture. Once everything comes out, where do we go? Remember that a lot of things said in the first few days of discovery are said in anger or disappointment:

baptismChurch member #1: “I can’t believe it. He baptized my kids. I trusted him. How could he do this? I guess it goes to show you that you can’t trust anyone?

Church member #2: “I never trusted him anyway. That’s horrible. His wife should leave him right away. He has got to be fired right now. He’s probably been doing this for years.

Church leader #1: “You know, we could just sweep this under the rug. Surely we can do damage control on this. If this gets out, it could hurt the church.

Church leader #2: “He’s done. This is an embarrassment. He needs to type a letter of resignation now and we have got to move on as quickly as possible.

Church leader #3: “He’s in trouble and I don’t like what he did. He can’t stay on here as pastor, but we do have a responsibility to help him and his family. Let’s go talk to him. I’m not sure what we can do, but let’s see if we can get him and his wife some help.

Community pastor#1: “Wow. I never thought he would do that. Goes to show you it can happen to anyone.

Community pastor #2: “What a disappointment. He just makes us all look bad.

Community pastor #3: “I need to call him. I don’t know what I can do, but I can at least reach out.

The pastor himself, reaction #1: “I cannot believe this is happening. I don’t know how I got here. I mean, I know how I got here. But, I don’t know what to do now. I’m about to lose everything. It’s all my fault. I need help.

The pastor, reaction #2: “I’m done. I’m getting all these angry calls. I’m leaving anyway. I don’t want to have anything to do Pastor Holding Biblewith church or any of this. My marriage has been awful and I’m leaving. No one can stop me.

The pastor, reaction #3: “I got caught. I know I did something wrong. Maybe I can get a little counseling and get back to ministry soon.”

There are many different reactions. Not everyone is on the same page and every member, leader and pastor has a different set of dynamics. The pastor has sinned and is responsible to face the consequences.

Here at Fallen Pastor, I do two things. First, I listen to people who approach me with questions. If they want advice, I give it. When a fallen pastor contacts me, I help. I’ve heard from all three of those types of pastors I listed above. I listen to them. And I love on them. I let them know that life isn’t over. I want them to be reconciled to Christ. I tell them that I will stand with them and help them get back on their feet.

Sometimes, they don’t listen to what I have to say. Sometimes they just want the answer to one or two questions and I never hear from them again. And that’s okay too.

But what I also do is help churches be aware that the fallen pastor needs help. His family needs help. I know that’s a tall order. I do. He just got caught sinning. He messed up royally. He has brought a dark cloud to rest on the church. People in the community will be gossiping for months about this.

ponderousThen we come to Galatians 6:1 where we are told to restore people. Not to the pulpit – but to Christ. We are to restore people when they fall. Know what we are to do when someone sins? Help them out of the pit they’ve dug for themselves.

In the beginning, it sure is hard. We are hurt, angry and want to put that person as far away from us as possible.

And the guys who get tossed to the side after they sin – I’ve talked to them too. Years after they fell, they are in a really bad place. Some might say, “Good, they deserve it.” Know what? We all deserve it. And I will never argue that a fallen pastor shouldn’t face up to the consequences he sowed. He will for the rest of his life.

What I am calling for is the Christian community to do what they can to restore people who sin. Restore them to Christ. And if you need help, reach out. We’re here. If you can’t do it yourself, find someone who can.

I would also direct your attention to this well written post at The Last Hiker, “Pastor Bob Coy, The Church, Adultery, Consequences, and Grace

Want to leave a comment on today’s post? 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.

Pastors In Trouble 4: If You Have To Ask…

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, fallenness, humillity, pastoring, pastors, repentance, restoration | Posted on 10-03-2014

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This blog is entitled “fallen pastor” but a lot of what I write could apply to anyone. All of us are susceptible to a ashamedfall. All of us are sinners and are capable of some pretty awful things. Honestly, you know what you’ve done. Maybe at this moment you are aware of a sin that you are attempting to hide from everyone. Maybe it’s not adultery – but it’s something that has a hold on you.

I know. You can stop whenever you want. And it really doesn’t control you.

Maybe you’re not in that situation now, but if you’re human, you have been. All of us have. The flesh gets hold of all of us at some point and we are addicts to something. We indulge in a sin and try to keep it secret – no matter how small.

The entire time we are sinning, we try to fool ourselves though. We think we are masters of that sin, but we are not. It has mastered us.

My father did his best to instill some wisdom in me. Two great thoughts that he repeated to me stick with me. The first was, “Believe none of what you hear and half of what you see.” The second, and germane to this post was, “If you have to ask about the morality of something and whether you should do it, you probably shouldn’t.

He was dead right about that last one.

I’ve been writing this series about the problems in the church culture – how our pastors are in crisis. We are in a time of turmoil unlike we’ve never seen before.

I can’t tell you how many fallen pastors email me with questions about moral issues and church issues. They’re guys who have just been caught and they have serious questions like, “Do I really need to tell my wife about my affair?” or “I’ve told my wife, do I really need to tell my church?” or “I committed adultery with this woman in my church. I’m not going to do it again. So, it’s okay if she is still a member, right?” or “I’ve asked God for forgiveness and He forgives all sin. So there’s no reason to tell anyone else. That’s what the Bible says, right?

Like Dad said, if you have to ask, your morality is probably a little messed up…

self-justificationNow, if you haven’t ever sinned or if you have never been in a situation where you’ve never been in serious trouble, you’re probably yelling at your computer screen. For those of you who find those questions ridiculous, let me tell you that they are very real and I get them A LOT. I don’t get as riled up as some people when I hear them because I understand why fallen people ask them. I fell from the ministry so let me tell you that I understand those questions from a certain viewpoint, so let me give you some insight on why they get asked in the first place.

When a pastor is engaged in sin, his moral compass (sorry if you don’t like that term) is extremely messed up. If someone has been committing adultery for a time, then think about what they’ve done. They’ve cheated on their spouse, emailing and texting someone, lying to their family, preaching while they’ve been sinning, justifying their behavior to themselves and the other person, probably not having a deep relationship with God, and putting on a false face for everyone.

So guess what? When they get caught, their usual reaction to sin is not going to be very strong. So don’t be too shocked when they say something like, “Well, I know I cheated on my wife, but God has forgiven me so you should too.

Yeah, it sounds ridiculous to us. And it makes us angry. But for a moment remember that this person is mired in a terrible pit of sin. Their morality meter has been shut off for a very long time. What they need right now is a few things. First, they need intervention. They need someone to speak the truth in a loving way to them. Second, they need someone to listen to them carefully. Third, they need someone who is going to love them – because this person is going to come to their senses soon and most of the world/church is going to be very angry with them.

Fallen pastors/fallen people say some very ridiculous things. Why? Because they have spentarrogant the past few months/years hiding their sin. And they’ve gotten really good at it. Also, they know the Bible pretty well – and they will use it as a tool to try to justify their sin. Is that right? Nope. It’s terrible. But that’s the place they are in.

And for a moment realize that all of us – each one of us – has justified our own sin at some point in our lives. We were all enemies of God before He saved us.

That’s why when I get asked one of those questions I listed above – I don’t get mad. I just remember that people are in a place where their sin has overwhelmed them to a point where they are not thinking clearly. Their sin has so much control over them that they are living the life of a person who is bound to do and say things that are not glorifying to God. I asked most of those questions when I fell. I was the same self-serving, sinful, blinded person. I thought I was okay, but I wasn’t. And I didn’t want to listen to anyone.

They don’t realize it. In fact, in some way, they will think that God is in control of that situation and anyone who speaks against them is their enemy. It’s part of their defense mechanism when they are in full sin justification mode. I know this because I’ve been there.

And I also know what it’s like when God comes in and takes off the blinders. I know what it’s like when God humbles us and lets us know that we have sinned horribly. It’s not the prettiest moment.

grace3But I’m thankful that in that moment, He also shows His amazing grace. I know that people aren’t always the kindest when we sin, but God is patient and long-suffering. People will say things and do things in reaction to our sin – and that is a result of our actions. But eventually, God will humble us and restore us if we humble ourselves.

Next time, I’m going to answer those questions above that a lot of fallen pastors (and church leaders who are trying to keep the peace) ask when they have been caught.

Churches, Christians, pastors, we are in a period of crisis. Pastors are falling at an alarming rate – some are committing suicide. What are we going to do to stop it? How will we change the church culture so that our ministers can become stable and secure?

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.

Serious Help For Your Church And Pastor

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in burnout, church leadership, churches, pastoring, pastors, speaking | Posted on 06-03-2014

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I’m in the middle of this blog series about how pastors are in serious trouble. And they are. Pastors are falling at an alarming rate.

Something needs to be done.

crisisI get email after email from pastors who are either in crisis mode or who have fallen. You know what? I’m praying that one day I won’t get any emails any more. I’m praying that there will be a day where denominations, churches, and leaders will have worked with their pastors to prevent ministry failure.

We’re not there yet.

You know what’s a shame? There is not much of a market for people to speak on preventing ministry failure.

Do you know what there is a market for? Pastors who can speak on spiritual gifts, the end times, tell you how to make money, church growth, revival, etc.

But hardly any church/denomination/association/church council/church leadership group out there has the foresight to ask a speaker or group of speakers to come to their church and talk to their people about how to prevent their leaders from falling. Falling how? Falling from conflict, into adultery, leaving the ministry because they’ve had enough, marriage problems that come from being in the ministry, or even the awful anxiety and depression that come with being in the ministry.

Know why? Because it is not something most churches/church leaders/pastors/denominations/associations want to even acknowledge even exists.

And I understand. When I was a pastor – before I fell – I didn’t know it was a problem. But I do now, after I fell. And I can tell you that after I fell and wrote a book about it I talk to ministers every week who are in your pulpits every week – they are struggling to keep it together.

75% of pastors say they go through a time of stress so severe, they consider quitting. But guess what? Most of them keep a nice church face on and keep on going, because that’s what they feel like they need to do.

I hope someone out there sees a need for a speaker. Maybe not me but there’s a link to the right of my blog there for “Pastorhelper.org” with other guys even more qualified than me. Men who have traveled the road. Men who can speak to the congregation, associations, men’s groups, leadership teams and tell them just how hard it really is and what can prevent a total disaster before it happens.

Please, do something before it’s too late.

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.

Pastors In Trouble 3: Ministers Are Fragile

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in burdens, burnout, Christ, church, church leadership, churches, conflict, counseling, depression, fallenness, humillity, isolation, pastoring, pastors, prevention, pride, stress, struggles | Posted on 05-03-2014

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handlePastors are in trouble. There seems to be an uptick of pastors leaving the ministry because of adultery, stress, conflict and some are committing suicide. In this series, I’m asking, “Why?” Last time, we looked at the church culture for answers. Now, let’s turn our attention to pastors.

Pastors are weak people. They’re fragile. If you could ship one in a large container via UPS, you’d need to put, “Handle With Care,” on the side.

I say this with utmost respect and familiarity. I was once a pastor and I fell. I talk regularly to fallen pastors and pastors in crisis. I even talk to pastor friends who are undergoing tremendous problems. In my book, I quote several statistics that back the fact up as well:

  • 30-40% of ministers ultimately drop out of ministry
  • 75% go through a period of stress so great, they consider quitting
  • 90% work more than 46 hours a week
  • 50% felt themselves unable to meet the needs of the job
  • 90% felt inadequately trained to cope with ministry demand
  • 70% say they have a lower self-esteem now compared to when they started in ministry
  • 40% reported serious conflict with a parishioner at least once a month

Pastors Should Be Weak

Biblically speaking, all of us are weak. Most of us know the verses. jars

  • But we have this treasure [knowledge of the glory of God] in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. (2 Corinthians 4:7, ESV)
  • But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. (1 Corinthians 1:27-29, ESV)

I don’t know any pastors who don’t think this is true. In fact, I know most pastors who speak of ministers of fallen and say, “I am a weak person. I know that could happen to me. I know I have to be careful.”

So, if pastors know they are weak, why are they falling at such a high rate?

For Some Pastors, Their Humility is “False Hustle”

I work in sports medicine and cover a lot of basketball. Long ago, I was talking to a girls basketball coach about a player he had. She was always running around the court, moving as fast as she could, sweating like a dog, but she never seemed to be doing anything that contributed to the team.

The coach said, “She’s got what we call ‘false hustle.’ She moves fast and it looks like she’s doing something. It looks like she’s playing the game, but she’s just running around with no real purpose.

bballI fear that there are a lot of pastors who say the words, “I know I could fall just like anyone else,” but unfortunately, they have pride deep in their hearts. Pride says, “I don’t need help from anyone. I’m the pastor. I’m the one who is supposed to have the answers.” They can fix their own problems. They don’t need close friends, they can run the church. They don’t need anyone’s opinion. I know. I’ve been there.

And ultimately, what they never seem to need is the objective opinion of a counselor, mentor, spouse or pastor telling them that they might be headed down the wrong path.

What they’re engaged in looks like ministry. They’re working hard, visiting, smiling when they need to smile, preaching when they need to preach, but they have neglected their own soul. They haven’t protected themselves from a fall. There is a wall of isolation around them. To be fair, it might be there because they’ve been hurt before – or it might be there because they don’t want to delegate anything. Either way, trouble is brewing.

What Can Be Done?

I’ve covered this and it seems so simple, but it holds great truth. I’m worried that many ministers have forgotten their calling. It didn’t happen intentionally. But pastors, when they started had something very simple, but very powerful – they had their calling from God and faith in Him.

I bet if pastors went back and thought about their first sermons, they’d cringe in terror. Most pastors think their early stuff was pretty awful. And compared to where they are now, it probably sounds that way to them. But that’s not the point.

The point is that in the beginning, we knew that no matter what came, we knew we had the Everything Else Follows PreachingWord of God and faith in Christ and we could get through anything. Somewhere along the way, the extra jobs came. The programs came that were so important. The committee meetings piled up. In time, we forget to rely on God and we start to rely on our “talents” and the programs that are supposed to bring people into the church.

But Christ is really all we need. Allowing Him to take control of His church and do what He will with it. We looked at the clay pot within us and decided it had grown strong because of our experience and position.

But it’s not. We were called because we were fools. Because we are weak. And that’s okay.

The stress, anxiety, depression, and feelings of failure came when as weak fools and clay pots, we decided to place burdens on ourselves that God never designed for us to bear. And so, we break. We fall apart. We shatter.

God has called us and has equipped us. But the entire time, He has chosen us because He will do the work through us and receive the glory for it.

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

Extra Content: Excellent article from lastingleaders.com on Overwhelmed Pastors

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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.

Pastors in Trouble 2b: The Community of Faith

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in burdens, Christ, church, church face, church leadership, church members, churches, community, conflict, culture, depression, forgiveness, isolation, leadership, ministry, pastoral care, pastoring, relationships | Posted on 28-02-2014

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Bryan Grant Real Estate PhotographyI’ve been writing about why so many pastors are in trouble. Pastors are leaving the ministry at an alarming rate. Some are committing adultery, some are just quitting, some leave over conflict, and shocking there seems to be a rise in pastor suicide. What’s going on?

This post is the second part of the discussion about one of the issues that needs to be addressed – our churches. Make sure you read the first part before you start here.

What does church look like today? A club. We go to churches that are bigger and have great programs for our kids (that is not a knock on large churches with dynamic youth programs, by the way). A place where we can sit in the back and not be noticed. We don’t want them to know who we really are.

Where did we go wrong? When did we stop being a community of faith and just another club to join?

I’m afraid one of the problems has something to do with the question I asked in the beginning of this series – “Are you loving people the way Christ intended for you to?

If we are, then when people sin in the community of faith, we will act out Galatians 6:1, conflictBrethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.

Or, if we are having a conflict or disagreement with another member of the community of faith, we won’t let it ride or have a grudge with them: Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift. Matthew 5:23-24

Guess how all of this affects a minister? Not good. One of the leading causes of the downfall of a pastor is isolation. Did you know that 70% of pastors do not have someone they consider a close friend? Pastors won’t find that statistic shocking at all.

Knowing that, it won’t surprise you that the majority of ministers will never, ever get close to a church member or a church leader. I’ll give you three reasons.

First, the pastor has probably been burned before when he got close to a church member. He told a deacon or elder something that was bothering him or a secret. And that person either betrayed his confidence or used that secret against the pastor.

This awesome Razorback is metaphorically showing us the distance most pastors put between themselves and church members.

This awesome Razorback is metaphorically showing us the distance most pastors put between themselves and church members.

Secondly, the pastor has been taught in seminary or by a mentor to never get close to church members. I was taught in seminary not to confide in church members or get too close. Why? We were told by a professor that if you did, that person might use your secrets or feelings against you.

Third, some pastors don’t want to make friends because they know that their job won’t keep them there long enough to make lasting relationships. (Dr. York had a great blog related to this topic and you should check it out.)

Of course, these reasons are good reasons, but they’re mostly based on mistrust. How can a pastor have a good relationship with his church if he never makes friends there? But I can see the other side. Why would he make friendships if he’s been burned in the past?

Here’s what I’ll say about all of it. We need to reform our churches so that we become communities of faith again. Where we all care about one another – like family. Pastors need to be able to trust their members enough to be friends with them. Yeah, it might not work out. Jesus was betrayed by one of his own. But he still loved.

Local churches need to be fervent about forgiveness. When someone falls in the church, they are your family. If they sin, go after them. Restore them to Christ. Guess what? The pastor is part of your community of faith too. If he does something awful, he needs the love of rescueChrist displayed to him as well. I’m not talking about restoration to the pulpit – I’m talking about restoration to Christ.

When we start acting out the compassion and love of Christ to our fellow believers, we will begin to see changes in ourselves and our fellow Christians. When we begin to bear the emotional weight of one another, all of our burdens become lighter. And when we share our problems, victories, pain, depression, hurt, and joy together – that’s when we truly become a community of faith.

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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.

Pastors in Trouble 2a: The Community of Faith

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in burnout, Christ, church, church face, church leadership, church members, churches, community, conflict, culture, fallenness, forgiveness, leadership, pastoring, pastors, relationships | Posted on 26-02-2014

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troubleIn my last post I asked two questions – why are so many pastors in trouble? We have pastors committing suicide, depressed, committing adultery, just quitting, and some are leaving because of conflict. Why?

The other question was a personal one. I wanted you to ask yourself whether you were loving people the way Christ intended for you to. Go back and read the post if you haven’t. It’s our beginning point. If, as a Christian community, we are going to fix these problems and take them seriously, we have to start answering some questions.

We have to be shocked that more and more pastors are committing suicide. We have to be shocked over statistics where 80% of pastors say they are suffering from depression. We must have some sort of twinge of pain when we learn that 77% of pastors say they do not have a good marriage.

Some of us think, “Well, it’s not my problem. The pastor knows where to get help. He can fix himself. He’s got the Bible. He knew it was a difficult profession when he got called. I’m sure he’s doing what he needs to take care of himself.”

I have a surprise for you. He’s probably not. Most pastors don’t do what they need to be doing to take care of themselves. I’ve blogged about it before – most ministers think they can fix their own problems.

Let’s look at one of the problems I believe is responsible for so many pastors leaving the ministry. Simply put, instead of living as communities of faith, we are Sunday gatherings of happychurchpeople with bright smiles who have little connection with one another and are engaging in one more weekly activity.

Let me explain what I mean. The church as we find it in Scripture has Christ as its head. We owe all to Him. He is the reason we exist. When we speak of church, we should be speaking of it as all those who have been redeemed by Christ. When we meet locally as a body of believers, that is a local church gathering.

When we find a local church gathering, we ought to be doing it for the right reasons. We ought to be there first because we love Christ and want to join with those of like mind who worship Him in spirit and truth. We also want to go there because we want to be able to follow Scripture and hear the Word preached. We should desire to be there so we can use our spiritual gifts and become people who are mission minded in our community.

Something else should happen to us when we decide where we belong. We become part of that community of faith. And when we do, we aren’t looking at the church and saying, “What can you do for me?” We are humbly approaching Christ and asking, “How can I serve you here?

worshipWhen we enter a community of faith, we are part of that functioning body. And what does a body of believers in love with Jesus Christ do? They act like the believers in the early church did. They love one another. Their fellowship is sweet. It’s not limited to a once a week handshake.

Fellowship means being able to share your heart with one another in an honest way and not fearing that the secrets and pains of your life will be the object of scorn or gossip from those within the community. It should be as Christ told us – treat others as you wish to be treated.

We should always be looking to mentor and disciple new Christians. We should always be looking to forgive those who sin. If someone is in need, we ought to help them through any situation. The problem often is that we don’t open up with one another enough to know that anyone is having serious problems.

Why is that? Because we’ve become accustomed, for some reason, to put on our church face facesand ride each Sunday out, looking the best we can. The entire time, many of the people in the pew are going through some of the most difficult moments in their lives – financial burdens, health issues, depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, problems with family, job issues – but most will leave it tied up tight in their brain where no one can see it.

It is opposite of what a fellowship of believers is supposed to be. We are called brothers and sisters in Christ for a reason. Yet we build all these walls so that the people we should be trusting and talking to the most know the least about us.

Next post, we’ll be looking at today’s church culture and how we can start making a difference.

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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.