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My Mess, His Message: Introduction

I promised I’d write out my testimony. It’ll take more than one post. I fell from the pastorate in October of 2009 after pastoring a church for eight years. The following March, I started blogging under a pseudonym at blogger.com. I had to write. Writing helped me clear a lot of the depression,...

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Too Many Fallen Pastors: A Call For Reformation

Posted by fallenpastor | Posted in adultery, church, church leadership, church members, churches, fallenness, leadership, ministry, pastoring, pastors, prevention, reconciliation, reformation, repentance, responsibility, restoration | Posted on 31-10-2014

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

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

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

Pastors

Church Leaders

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

Church Members

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

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

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

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

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

____________________________

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

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

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

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

Posted by fallenpastor | 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.

____________________________

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.

Pray for Pastors With Depression

Posted by fallenpastor | Posted in depression, pastoring, pastors | Posted on 05-09-2014

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There are a lot of pastors who suffer from depression. I’m sure you’ve seen the statistics. Fallen pastors suffer from it as well.

Right now, I’m going through a tough time of cyclical depression myself. I don’t share that for pity, but I know how hard it can be. I’ve had it for a long time and when I was a pastor, I would keep it all bottled up.

I know there are pastors – maybe your pastor – who is struggling right now. Maybe you’re a pastor and you need someone to talk to. I’m here. Reach out to a mentor, a counselor, a friend. But know you’re not alone.

If you’re a fallen pastor, know that people care about you. I care, there are also other ministries to help. We are all in this together, as Christian brothers and sisters, to help one another.

Other helpful articles:

Silent Suffering: Pastors and Depression” at ChurchLeaders

When Pastors Experience Depression” by Thom Rainer

____________________________

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

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

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

A Haunting Story of Pastor Suicide

Posted by fallenpastor | Posted in adultery, book, Christ, church, churches, fallenness, hope, pastoring, pastors, self-harm, suicide | Posted on 15-08-2014

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psuicWhile writing my book, I was interviewing a fallen pastor. He shared this with me:

“I heard about a pastor who committed adultery in August then killed himself in December. I wondered, ‘Did anyone reach out to him? Did anyone love him? Did anyone seek to restore him?’ It brought back so many memories of when I wanted to die.”

That story has haunted me. In fact, it has come to fruition many times since then. Recently, I got an email from a man who told me that a pastor who fell killed himself after committing adultery.

Once again, recent events have brought the suicide question to our thoughts and hearts.

I recall a long time ago a story about a youth pastor who hadn’t committed any kind of sin, but felt all kinds of anxiety and pressure. He was a seminary student. He called his insurance company and asked if his plan covered suicide. They told him it did. The next day, he wrapped himself in carpet in his car and pulled the trigger.

Ministry is very intensive. Extremely intensive. Whether you have committed a huge sin or not. In my book, I list the pressures ministers face.

Here’s what I want to convey to you today: Pastors are under a huge amount of pressure. They may put on a front that their lives are wonderful. I know I did.

A while back, I ran into a former church member of mine. Here is how the conversation went:

She said, “I thought your marriage was so wonderful.

I said, “It wasn’t. It hadn’t been for many years.”

She said, “But it looked so good.alonepastor

I said, “Yeah, but it wasn’t. What I’ve learned is that many pastors and their wives have learned to hide their sorrows and pains of their marriages very well.”

She said, “You did a very good job.”

Friends, isn’t about time that in the church, we started being real with each other? Especially in our church leadership? I hid the failures of my own marriage from myself. What if I had gotten help earlier? What if the church leaders, members, and people actually started being real with each other?

When I talked to the fallen pastors in my book, they lamented that they couldn’t be real with the people in their churches. Unfortunately, I see story after story about pastors who commit suicide because they see no end but to kill themselves. They can’t be real with anyone. Is it an excuse? No. But they have no one to reach out to.

Maybe you are the one to reach out the them. Maybe your pastor has fallen. Maybe you are disappointed in them. Maybe you have lost faith in them. But let me tell you this – God has never given up on them. And neither should you. Don’t ever give up on another human being, regardless of how you feel about them.

Pursue them. Love them. Remember the father of the prodigal son. Never let another person feel alone, regardless of their sin. Don’t abandon anyone. Ever.

Providence And DepressionRemember the mission of Christ. He never gave up on any of us. He went to the cross for us. Bleeding, weeping, when all was lost. And he made it count.

Even when your pastor committed adultery, embezzled money, lied to you – you don’t have to agree with his sin. But gracious me. You still have to show compassion. There is still some Christ in you to forgive. To show friendship. To say, “I may not understand why you did what you did – but the Christ in me still loves me for who you are.”

That’s all that is asked of us.

Other helpful articles:

I understand that the people at the National Suicide Prevention Hotline are really awesome to talk to. Feeling like you’re on the edge? Close to it? Call them. Please: 1-800-273-8255 Check it, they have a website too: http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

More links:

Why are so many pastors committing suicide?” by Crosswalk.com

Pastors: Mental Illness and Suicide” by Rev. Mark H. Creech

A Pastor’s Suicide: Addressing Mental Health in Black Churches” by Darnell Moore

Suicide: When Pastors’ Silent Suffering Turns Tragic,” by Greg Warner, USA Today

Pastors in Trouble 6: Pastors & Suicide” Fallen Pastor

Do Christians Who Commit Suicide Go To Heaven?” Fallen Pastor

Junior Seau and ‘The Easy Way Out‘” Ray Carroll on Provoketive.com

Whitney Houston and Humanity’s Most Important Question” Ray Carroll on Provoketive.com

Is Your Heart Right & Is Whitney Houston in Heaven?” Fallen Pastor

Robin Williams and Why Funny People Kill Themselves” by David Wong at Cracked.com (Warning: Strong language and images – a very informative and helpful article, however concerning depression, people of humor, and how they mask it)

__________________

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.

5 Things I Would Change About The Way I Pastored

Posted by fallenpastor | Posted in pastoring, preaching | Posted on 01-08-2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

__________________

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

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

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

3 Sources of High Expectations For Pastors

Posted by fallenpastor | 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

____________________________

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 fallenpastor | 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.

____________________________

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 fallenpastor | 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. When a pastor falls, what is the best way to confront him?

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.

____________________________

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 fallenpastor | 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. 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.

____________________________

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 fallenpastor | 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. Everyone should be encouraged that there is help for Bob Coy and Calvary Chapel.

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.

____________________________

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.