Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in fallenness, forgiveness, pastors, reconciliation | Posted on 23-07-2014
I’ve been ministering to fallen pastors for over four years now through my book and this blog. It’s been a unique joy and blessing. Recently, I’ve been taking the stance that all churches, members and leaders need to be more involved with taking care of a pastor when he falls from the ministry due to sexual immorality. Even though these men smell like pigs.
Let me explain.
Today, I’m not going to give you reasons why we should because I’ve done that before. I want to share with you one of the most rewarding things that happens when you care for and pursue a fallen, sinful pastor – you get to see and share in his restoration.
And so you’ll know what I mean by restoration – I mean to be restored to Christ. Will a fallen pastor ever be restored to ministry? Can we restore the fallen pastor? That’s a different topic. When a man has fallen from the pulpit and sinned, he needs to focus on a right relationship with Christ first. Because his relationship with Christ went wrong way before his marriage or church relationship ever started failing.
There are two types of fallen pastors. Both guys typically get kicked to the curb by their churches. But the first type has a little bit of hope to get some help by his association or his church.
The first type is the pastor who gets caught red-handed. His sin is discovered and his is approached with it by his wife or leaders of the church. His response is an almost immediate desire to do what is right and repent. He may not have a heart full of repentance right away. He may still have lingering, sinful desires – but you have to remember his adultery went on for a while. But if he shows any signs of wanting to break free, he needs your help.
The tricky thing about a newly fallen pastor is that he may think he can fix himself. Any pastor who falls needs a group of people around him to help restore him, work through his sin and toward brokenness. I write about brokenness in my book and on this blog. It is essential that any man who has fallen from the pulpit come to a point where they understand the devastation their sin caused and run back to God. Dr. Hershael York helped me understand this point while I was working on my book.
If a man refuses to be guided by a group of other Christians or be accountable, that’s a huge red flag. I’ll be honest – in my experience and after talking to others who deal with fallen pastors across the country – restoration to Christ and true brokenness takes at least a year and possibly up to 18 months. God takes His time in dealing with the hearts of His people and I’m glad He does. He does it lovingly and patiently. But there does come a moment when he breaks us.
Of all the fallen pastors I’ve talked to who have been restored, most of them remember the day God broke them. They can remember the day their sin became real. It was part of a process. Most of those moments are very personal, but God does work on our hearts.
The second type of fallen pastor is the one hardly any church, association, other pastor, family member or denominational leader wants to deal with. It’s the pastor who commits adultery, won’t listen to anyone, gets a divorce from his wife and is gone. We need to be intentional about restoring fallen pastors. Now, there is typically more story in there that no one will ever hear or want to hear, but the bottom line is this – here is a guy who sinned, got kicked out of church and home, and no one wants to deal with him.
I believe we must reach this man too. I was this man. When these men email me, they have my full, undivided attention. Know why? Because I’ve noticed in this group, there is a trending rate toward self-abuse, depression and self-hatred. When is it okay to push a sinning pastor to the side and let him go?
I can’t do it. I don’t ever condone his sin, but I will forever be his friend. Know why? Because I believe that one day, God can and will do something to radically change his heart to restore the fallen pastor. And when he does, I don’t want that pastor to say, “No one in the church believes in me. I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing.”
Imagine the prodigal son, who has wasted his father’s wealth and now finds himself among the pigs. He stinks like a pig. He is helpless and hopeless. The Bible says that the son “came to himself.” That is what happens to many fallen pastors after a period of weeks, months or years. I’ve seen it. They snap out of it.
Anyway, the pig-smelly son decides to go back to his father’s house and attempt to at least get a job there. But we all know what happens. His father runs to meet him, not welcoming him back as a second class citizen, but as his son. See, the father didn’t embrace him and say, “Boy, where have you been for the past twelve weeks? You smell like pig!” Regardless of where the son had been, or where he had been dwelling, or how he smelled, he was still his son.
Cue the rest of the parable (that never gets preached on) and we find the older brother who is angry. He’s angry because he’s always been there for dad. But dad decided to throw a party because they found the pig-smelling son who ran off and spent money. The older son is indignant. The father says, “Son, you should rejoice because what was once lost is now found.” No, the older brother isn’t having that. He’s angry. He’s always been there. His brother ran off like a little jerk. Now he comes back smelling like a pig and he gets a party.
Point? I love all the fallen pastors who come my way, regardless of how they smell. In fact, I don’t even notice the smell. I know eventually, God is going to grab hold of them and take care of them. Restoration to Christ is really God’s job, I just get to help facilitate that. And it’s an overwhelming joy and honor
But it should be happening in the communities where these men live. And I pray someday it will.
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.
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