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5 Songs For The Fallen Pastor: “Afterlife”

Avenged Sevenfold, the band. I remember shortly after I had fallen, I was substitute teaching and going through my divorce. I had a kid in class that had an “Avenged Sevenfold” shirt on. It had a green skull on it. I asked, “Are they any good?” He said,...

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Pastors and Divorce: The Reality

Posted by fallenpastor | Posted in adultery, divorce, marriage, pastors | Posted on 15-05-2015

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2percentThis isn’t an easy post. Some fallen pastors who have committed adultery end up with the woman they commit adultery with. I was one. How should we approach the issue of fallen pastors and divorce?

Let me share with you a couple of things before I start. The statistic is non-negotiable – 2% of marriages that are built on adultery succeed. You get that? That means if you marry someone that you commit adultery with, you are looking down the barrel of a 98% failure rate.

Now, let me share with you this quote from Dr. Hershael York, preaching professor who I interviewed for my book. He had a great reason why marriages built on affairs don’t really last. It’s because when you’re engaged in an affair, it’s really a fantasy world that you can come and go from. It’s not a relationship that is founded on the marriage ideal:

Every time you have an affair with anybody, I don’t care who you are, in a sense, you’re having an affair with a fantasy and not a real person. Because the person you’ve got to pay the mortgage with, deal with the kids’ soccer schedule with, the one whose vomit you wipe up when they’re sick, that’s the real person you live with. Twenty minutes in the sack on a Tuesday afternoon is really not love. You’ve got to tell yourself that. You’ve got to awaken yourself to the fact that it’s fantasy. If you end up with the person you had an affair with, I guarantee you once you get married you have to face the same issues and same struggles. You cannot take two totally depraved human beings, stick them in the same house and not have friction.” (Fallen Pastor, p. 172)

He’s right. The thrill of the affair is not the same as a marriage covenant.

I did in fact, marry Allison, who was the woman I met and had an affair with. We are still here after five years. We are not the norm. I do not encourage fallen pastors to run after the women they had an affair with. For some reason, Allison and I have made it work. She is great for me. She loves me for who I am and I love her with all my heart. Does that make our sin right? Nope. But we are here, attempting to move on past what we did and trying to live a life of holiness.

I’ve often said that pastors don’t just wake up one day and say, “I think I’ll commit adultery today.” They don’t. It takes a long time to get to that point. Know this – their sin is their responsibility. There are factors that weaken them and I list them in my book – poor relationship with spouse, overly high expectations, church conflict, isolation and many times a huge trauma.

pastorkidsOne thing that many fallen pastors don’t think about is what the fallout will be. When I was on the road to leaving my wife and the ministry, I just knew I wanted to be with Allison. I knew it would cost me my job and the contact I had with my children.

When I finally got caught, it became more real to me. It was all over. All of it. Especially the contact I would have with my children.

I won’t sit here and tell you that it was an easy thing. It was the most difficult thing. In fact, all of the fallen pastors I talk to tell me that losing full-time contact with their children in cases of divorce is the most devastating thing for them.

There are some statistics that should bother anyone involved in church today. The statistic that a vast majority of ministry couples feel that serving in the church has a detrimental effect upon their marriage. That most ministry couples experience anxiety and depression.

People ask me, “Would you do it again if you had the chance?” I don’t like hypothetical questions. What I do consider is being able to provide for my children, making sure they are happy, and being involved with them and being free to talk with them when they desire.

They are daddy’s girls. I am proud to say they love me. We discuss things that I know they only share with me. They know what I did was a sin, but they love me anyway.

Divorce is a terrible, sinful thing. They know this. But each time I see them, they wrap their arms around me and call me “Daddy.” They love me despite my flaws and care about the ministry I’m involved in now.

What is the point I’m driving at? Well, there are two. First, if you are a pastor who is thinking about adultery, please think about the consequences. If you fall, it will affect everyone around you. Your church, your wife, your kids and people in the community. If there is something there to salvage, work on it.

Secondly, if you have fallen, do what it takes to work things out with your family. Your kids, parents, siblings, trustgrandparents, whomever. Not everyone will be easy to trust or forgive you right away. You need to understand that you are the one who sinned. If you are truly repentant and understand grace, then you will give people time to heal.

Divorce is a serious thing. Fallen pastors, are you ready to go into those proceedings? Many hurt pastor’s wives want to leave you immediately. It’s because they are hurt. They often listen to the counsel of their family or those in the church who are hurt as they are. If you want your wife back, try to get an impartial mediator involved.

If divorce is pursued, seek the heart of Christ. Don’t be an angry person. Always be thinking about your children. Don’t respond with hatred when hatred is thrown back at you. Remember that the reason your spouse is acting as she does is because you did what you did. Show true, repentant humility.

You might not be able to stop a divorce, but beginning with true, Christ-like humility can put you on the right step toward a lifetime journey of repentance and holiness.

Finally, I will tell you this. When a wife has been cheated on, she has the right to be angry. Don’t expect her to forgive you or gain your trust overnight. I’ve seen a lot of fallen pastors say to their wives within months of the act of adultery, “God says you should forgive me.” Wrong approach. When we commit adultery, we have caused depths of hurt that we do not understand.

Step back, repent to God and allow Him to work on the hearts of others. Know that trust takes a long time to be restored. It may never be restored. I’ve seen fallen pastors whose wives never forgive them or always hold their adultery over their head.

How does one respond to that? With grace. With the same grace we desire after we committed adultery. We cannot expect to change anyone’s heart but our own. When you sin, turn to God. Allow Him to change in you what it is that went wrong. Even if your marriage ends in divorce, be patient with others. Allow God to make you a new person.

As Dr. York taught me, “Make your repentance more notorious than your sin.”

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.

Pastors In Trouble: What Can Be Done?

Posted by fallenpastor | Posted in church, church leadership, culture, fallenness, pastors | Posted on 14-04-2015

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fallingWe’ve been looking at the current crisis facing the church today – pastors are falling at an alarming rate. Many are feeling tremendous pressure, conflict, and other forces that they are leaving the ministry, committing adultery and some are committing suicide.

In summary, what can be done?

Associations, denominational leaders, bishops, and state leadership groups need to be intentional about the situation. I get the feeling that “at the top,” the feeling is that the local church needs to be handling the situation. That’s true – when a pastor falls, it’s the responsibility of the local church to handle the situation as they see fit.

But there needs to be some type of help from groups higher up the chain. Those groups need to be equipped to provide help if asked for it. It’s important for them to suggest guidelines on how to handle the fallen pastor situation. Even more important is understanding the root problem and helping prevent it.

Also, local church leaders, elders, and deacons need to be aware of how fragile their pastor is. Are they aware of the hours he’s working? What is churcholdtheir impression of how stressed he is? When was the last time the pastor had a real vacation? Has he had any recent crisis events? Are the church leaders doing all they can when conflict arises to stand by the pastor and help fix the situation?

Church leaders also need to be aware of how demanding pastoral ministry is. Any pastor can fall. Any minister can be weakened to a place where he will want to quit the church. Unfortunately, many pastors are so good at hiding their stress and frustration that their departure will come as a surprise. There are many good books and resources on helping the pastor and understanding him. But one of the best things to do is just talking to him.

What can the church do? I have argued more than once that today’s church is not what it was designed to be. The modern church looks more like a club where religious people attend on Sunday than a community of faith that can transform lives.

When people can be part of something and be real, open their hearts to one another on daily basis by sharing themselves through prayer and through the Word of God, it will be a community where everyone – including the pastor – can be real. It will be a community not driven by programs, numbers, budget or power groups – but a group of people gathered for the glory of Christ and consumed with loving each other.

What can the pastor do? He can start by remembering where he began. God called him – a foolish, weak man. He didn’t call him to the ministry because he was a good-looking, amazing speaker. He called him because he was a willing vessel. He just wants us. He wants our brokenness.

pastorofficeAt some point, all of us tried doing too much. We thought in our effort, we needed to do something better. And when we did, we let pride in the door.

One day, we found ourselves in an office, surrounded by books, with less time to pray, with too many commitments, with a ton of programs, and less time for Christ.

When I tell people that pastors are in trouble today more than ever before, I don’t mean the guys who have already fallen. I mean the guys who don’t think they’re in trouble. I mean the guys who think they’re okay. The guys who have convinced themselves that even though they’re stressed, burned out, working too hard, whose marriages aren’t as good as they used to be, who are unhappy at the core – those are the guys who are in trouble.

Because on the inside while they are hurting – on the outside they keep telling everyone that “everything is fine.”

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.

What To Do When A Pastor Falls, Pt. 1

Posted by fallenpastor | Posted in adultery, church leadership, church members, fallenness, pastors | Posted on 26-03-2015

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I wanted to be able to write something to help churches and leaders have a guide for what to do when a 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 five years.  (You might want to check out my book or contact me directly for more in depth help on the issue.)

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 without any kind of meeting with him or examination of the evidence.

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, I’ll talk about meeting with the pastor and how to understand his reaction.

Click here for part 2 and here for part 3.

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.

Are Pastors Too Hard On Themselves?

Posted by fallenpastor | Posted in burnout, church, community, expectations, pastoral care, pastoring, pastors | Posted on 23-03-2015

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polevaultI was on the phone recently with a pastor friend of mine from out West. He had overheard someone in his church criticize something he had said and he had taken it personally.

He said something like this – “People don’t understand how much criticism can hurt pastors, especially when we are working so hard all week-long doing ministry for them. I mean, we work so hard to do everything right. What they don’t understand is that no matter what they say or do to criticize, I’m always harder on myself than they could ever be on me.

Those words I just bolded, italicized and underlined are important. They come out of the mouths of about 90% of the pastors I talk to. Heck, I said it about myself when I was pastoring. “I’m harder on myself than anyone else could be. I expect more from myself than anyone else could. I expect my sermons to be just about perfect, my ministry to look excellent, my appearance in public to look great, and everything I do to be a reflection of my church and of Christ.

That’s a pretty good summary of how most pastors feel even if they wouldn’t use those exact words. In my book I talk about some of the things that lead to ministry failure and unrealistic expectations is one of the top things.

Guess where a lot of the unrealistic expectations come from? From the minister himself. Are pastors too hard on themselves?

It’s a good thing to have realistic expectations for yourself. You should have reasonable, biblical standards for yourself. But there is a point where those expectations become unrealistic. When we set the bar even over what Christ has for us.Frustrated office manager overloaded with work.

I think there’s a moment in ministry where the pastor starts micromanaging or taking on too many tasks and he thinks that he is responsible for the reputation of the church. Instead of seeing the church as a body, he really starts to see himself as the one who needs to be involved in every aspect so that he can make everything work.

To be fair, this often happens when members fall to the wayside and fail to perform certain duties. The pastor will start making the bulletin, teaching classes, handling the youth, cleaning the toilets, etc. and he will start piling it on and he thinks he’s doing the work of the kingdom. Unfortunately, what he’s doing is weakening the reason he’s there. He’s there to preach the Word and be a shepherd.

But as time goes by, something else happens. He looks at the success of his peers, other churches in the area and he sees that he’s not keeping up. It’s church envy. Most guys won’t ever admit to this. Even guys who have large, seemingly successful churches. A lot of pastors end up with a lot of pride and just want more. And they take it on themselves to grow the church. And guess what? It’s not their job. Christ said He would add to the church.

After several years of being out, it has been easier to look at what I became in my later years and how I got isolated and frustrated instead of doing what I should have been doing. I heard my friend on the phone as he shared with me some of his problems and I heard some of the things in his voice that I used to hear in mine.

exhaustedThat’s when he said, “It just bothers me that people criticize when they don’t know the whole story. If they knew how hard I am on myself, they’d probably never say anything. Because I’m harder on myself than they’ll ever be.

I could hear it in his voice. I could hear the days he spent in prayer for his people, the hours he spent in sermon prep, the countless times he had answered a late night phone call, the numerous times he had to smile at a church member who he knew really didn’t like him. I could hear in his voice, not anger, not bitterness – but the kind of sadness – not equal to, but similar to – the kind that Jesus had when he looked out on the people he was trying to help who only had scorn for him.

I said, “Why are you being so hard on yourself?

He said, “What?”

I said, “You’re doing the same thing I used to do. You said you’re trying really hard and that you’re being really hard on yourself. Why do you do that?

He said, “I just want it all to be right. I’m trying to do my best.”

I said, “Remember when you got your call to ministry? Remember when you first started pastoring and you preached your first few sermons? I bet if you could go back now and listen to them, you’d think they would sound terrible, wouldn’t you?

He laughed and said, “Yeah, I would.”

I continued, “And I bet you didn’t have a clue about what to do as a pastor. But at that 2cor12moment, you were convinced that all you needed was Christ and His Word and you could make it, right?”

He paused, “You’re right. I hear you.

And I said, “That’s all he wants from you now. Do you think Christ wants you to be this hard on yourself? Yeah, he wants our best. But he doesn’t want you driving yourself mad and into the ground trying to do everything. He doesn’t want his people having unrealistic expectations. You know what he wants. The same thing He wanted when He called you. He just wants you.”

He wants you in your weakness. Because His power is made perfect in our weakness, right?

You’re right. I see what you’re saying,” he said. It was like a realization he hadn’t had in a while. And to be frank, what I had just said had come out of nowhere. It was something I needed to hear too.

It’s one of things that comes to me from the Holy Spirit when I talk to guys. I’m not wise by any means. Sometimes I’m not particularly helpful. But God always knows what to say.

And pastors, if you’re reading this and you are pushing yourself to be perfect, and you have the accelerator mashed to the floor, trying to get everything you can out of yourself, it might be time to remember that Christ doesn’t want you to do that. He just wants you. He wants you to be yourself – weak, vulnerable, gifted and ready to serve.

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Here are some excellent articles about dealing with expectations:

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

Experts: Pastor burnout results from unrealistic expectations” from Florida-Times Union

Unrealistic Ministry Expectations: What’s a Pastor to Do?” by Paul Tripp

How to Pastor Difficult People” by Richard Dobbins

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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.

Help With The Crisis of Fallen Pastors

Posted by fallenpastor | Posted in fallenness, ministry, pastors | Posted on 16-03-2015

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

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

There are plenty of blog posts here concerning fallen pastors, their wives, how churches can get started after a pastor falls, and many other issues. If you’re looking for help, this is one place to start.

My book, “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World,” also gives insight on why pastors fall and how we can understand the process better and prevent it.

I am available to you on the phone or if my schedule allows it, in person. I have a strong network of people I trust who can help in many different situations. Please don’t hesitate to contact me.

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

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

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

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

Pastors and Divorce: The Reality

Posted by fallenpastor | Posted in divorce, ministry, pastors | Posted on 13-03-2015

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2percentThis isn’t an easy post. Some fallen pastors who have committed adultery end up with the woman they commit adultery with. I was one. How should we approach the issue of fallen pastors and divorce?

Let me share with you a couple of things before I start. The statistic is non-negotiable – 2% of marriages that are built on adultery succeed. You get that? That means if you marry someone that you commit adultery with, you are looking down the barrel of a 98% failure rate.

Now, let me share with you this quote from Dr. Hershael York, preaching professor who I interviewed for my book. He had a great reason why marriages built on affairs don’t really last. It’s because when you’re engaged in an affair, it’s really a fantasy world that you can come and go from. It’s not a true relationship that is founded on the marriage ideal:

Every time you have an affair with anybody, I don’t care who you are, in a sense, you’re having an affair with a fantasy and not a real person. Because the person you’ve got to pay the mortgage with, deal with the kids’ soccer schedule with, the one whose vomit you wipe up when they’re sick, that’s the real person you live with. Twenty minutes in the sack on a Tuesday afternoon is really not love. You’ve got to tell yourself that. You’ve got to awaken yourself to the fact that it’s fantasy. If you end up with the person you had an affair with, I guarantee you once you get married you have to face the same issues and same struggles. You cannot take two totally depraved human beings, stick them in the same house and not have friction.” (Fallen Pastor, p. 172)

He’s right. The thrill of the affair is not the same as a marriage covenant.

I did in fact, marry Allison, who was the woman I met and had an affair with. We are still here after four years. We are not the norm. I do not encourage fallen pastors to run after the women they had an affair with. For some reason, Allison and I have made it work. She is great for me. She loves me for who I am and I love her with all my heart. Does that make our sin right? Nope. But we are here, attempting to move on past what we did and trying to live a life of holiness.

I’ve often said that pastors don’t just wake up one day and say, “I think I’ll commit adultery today.” They don’t. It takes a long time to get to that point. Know this – their sin is their responsibility. There are factors that weaken them and I list them in my book – poor relationship with spouse, overly high expectations, church conflict, isolation and many times a huge trauma.

pastorkidsOne thing that many fallen pastors don’t think about is what the fallout will be. When I was on the road to leaving my wife and the ministry, I just knew I wanted to be with Allison. I knew it would cost me my job and the contact I had with my children.

When I finally got caught, it became more real to me. It was all over. All of it. Especially the contact I would have with my children.

I won’t sit here and tell you that it was an easy thing. It was the most difficult thing. In fact, all of the fallen pastors I talk to tell me that losing full-time contact with their children in cases of divorce is the most devastating thing for them.

There are some statistics that should bother anyone involved in church today. The statistic that a vast majority of ministry couples feel that serving in the church has a detrimental effect upon their marriage. That most ministry couples experience anxiety and depression.

People ask me, “Would you do it again if you had the chance?” I don’t like hypothetical questions. What I do consider is being able to provide for my children, making sure they are happy, and being involved with them and being free to talk with them when they desire.

They are daddy’s girls. I am proud to say they love me. We discuss things that I know they only share with me. They know what I did was a sin, but they love me anyway.

Divorce is a terrible, sinful thing. They know this. But each time I see them, they wrap their arms around me and call me “Daddy.” They love me despite my flaws and care about the ministry I’m involved in now.

What is the point I’m driving at? Well, there are two. First, if you are a pastor who is thinking about adultery, please think about the consequences. If you fall, it will effect everyone around you. Your church, your wife, your kids and people in the community. If there is something there to salvage, work on it.

Secondly, if you have fallen, do what it takes to work things out with your family. Your kids, parents, siblings, trustgrandparents, whomever. Not everyone will be easy to trust or forgive you right away. You need to understand that you are the one who sinned. If you are truly repentant and understand grace, then you will give people time to heal.

Divorce is a serious thing. Fallen pastors, are you ready to go into those proceedings? Many hurt pastor’s wives want to leave you immediately. It’s because they are hurt. They often listen to the counsel of their family or those in the church who are hurt as they are. If you want your wife back, try to get an impartial mediator involved.

If divorce is pursued, seek the heart of Christ. Don’t be an angry person. Always be thinking about your children. Don’t respond with hatred when hatred is thrown back at you. Remember that the reason your spouse is acting as she does is because you did what you did. Show true, repentant humility.

You might not be able to stop a divorce, but beginning with true, Christ-like humility can put you on the right step toward a lifetime journey of repentance and holiness.

Finally, I will tell you this. When a wife has been cheated on, she has the right to be angry. Don’t expect her to forgive you or gain your trust overnight. I’ve seen a lot of fallen pastors say to their wives within months of the act of adultery, “God says you should forgive me.” Wrong approach. When we commit adultery, we have caused depths of hurt that we do not understand.

Step back, repent to God and allow Him to work on the hearts of others. Know that trust takes a long time to be restored. It may never be restored. I’ve seen fallen pastors whose wives never forgive them or always hold their adultery over their head.

How does one respond to that? With grace. With the same grace we desire after we committed adultery. We cannot expect to change anyone’s heart but our own. When you sin, turn to God. Allow Him to change in you what it is that went wrong. Even if your marriage ends in divorce, be patient with others. Allow God to make you a new person.

As Dr. York taught me, “Make your repentance more notorious than your sin.”

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 and the Batman Problem

Posted by fallenpastor | Posted in burnout, failure, fallenness, ministry, pastoring, pastors, prevention | Posted on 25-02-2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is My Pastor Up To Something Sinful?

Posted by fallenpastor | Posted in church, community, pastors, sin | Posted on 13-02-2015

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computerTurn on the news and what do you see? War. Murder. What does that mean? That you’re probably going to get shot tomorrow and that the end is near.

Of course that’s not what that means.

But we do internalize a lot of the evening news, don’t we? And we internalize a lot of statistics. We get online and type in some symptoms we’re having and WebMD tells us that we have an incurable disease. It can be difficult not to do those things when information is so accessible.

Here at Fallen Pastor I share a lot of statistics. I’ll tell you that a lot of pastors suffer from depression or look at pornography. I tell you that ministry failure is a stark reality and I use statistics to illustrate the point. It’s a real problem.webmd

Once in a while I will write a blog about how people can take care of their “normal” pastor. How pastors can prevent moral failure.

But I want you to know that just because there are tendencies toward sin, just because there are pastors who struggle – that doesn’t mean that your pastor is sitting at his desk with his cell phone, texting his secret lover trying to figure out an out of the way rendezvous, all the while surfing the web for pornography, simultaneously writing his Sunday sermon on how husbands should love their wives.

There are some great pastors out there. A ton of them. Have I ever met a perfect one? Nope. Never met a perfect Christian or church member either. And that’s the way it’s supposed to be. All of us undergoing the process of sanctification, working together, walking together in Christ.

I hope you don’t read this blog and think that your pastor is wiling away his hours being sinful. He’s probably not. He does need your support. So does his family. They are under extreme pressure. Let them be human. Let them be part of the community of faith and express their frustrations, prayer requests, and have time off with their family.

Let them worship together as a family on Sunday and make sure they are experiencing God in the church as you are. Don’t treat him as  a hired hand – treat him as a brother in Christ.

Don’t be suspicious of his motives. Instead, if you think he might have a problem, approach him as Matthew 18 asks us to. If you feel he has slighted you or made an error, go to him in love. Treat him as you would want to be treated in the same situation.

Has he made mistakes? Sure. Will he continue to make them? Absolutely. Will you? Sure you will.

Is my pastor up to something sinful? Probably. We all are to some degree. But will we continue to be mistake-making people who constantly look to Christ for help, sanctification and healing as  a community of faith? That’s the real question.

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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.

6 Popular Ways To Run Off Your Pastor

Posted by fallenpastor | Posted in churches, complaining, conflict, culture, pastors | Posted on 06-02-2015

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Fallenpastor.com does not recommend this approach to removing a pastor from a church.

Fallenpastor.com does not recommend this approach to removing a pastor from a church.

Want to get rid of your pastor? Maybe not, but there could be people unwittingly doing things within your church who are sending messages to your preacher that they want him gone. Yesterday.

During my five-year ministry to fallen pastors, I talk to former ministers, active ministers, retired pastors, directors of missions, and missionaries. The problems I list below come from years of talking to frustrated ministers.

Unfortunately, for most of them, there are certain types of attitudes that pop up in churches that do much harm to ministers. I wrote a blog post a while back called “3 Ways You Can Prevent Pastoral Adultery.” It wasn’t very popular (probably the title). It was about how church members and leaders can help their pastors thrive in the pulpit.

So, I’m taking a different approach today. They are things that most pastors think and encounter but would never share with their own congregation. It’s a bit tongue in cheek, slightly snarky, but unfortunately, through my research of talking to hundreds of fellow ministers, here are 6 popular ways to run off your pastor.  (I might add, don’t do any of these things. In fact, do the opposite.)

1. Leave Him Passive Aggressive Notes

Don’t like something about church? Don’t like the hymns or how long the pastor is preaching? Don’t like the new music style or how the young people are acting? Well, there’s a time-honored solution for that. Leave the pastor a passive aggressive note. Preferably anonymousanonymous. Pastors just love anonymous notes left on their desks, windshields or in the offering plate.

You know with messages like, “Your messages were much more enjoyable when they were five minutes shorter,” or “You look more professional when you wear a tie” or “The sermon was fine, but you quoted 1 John 1:2 when I think you meant John 1:2.That’s the kind of stuff that helps the pastor focus on what’s really important.

2. Show Remarkable Imbalance as Church Leaders

When there’s a huge church crisis or disagreement looming and the pastor needs wisdom, input and support from his leadership, don’t say a word. Let him figure that stuff out on his own. Heck, that’s what all those seminary classes are for, right? But when he orders a $25 box of personalized pens with the church’s name on them without prior authorization? Give him heck at the next business meeting!


We have a tendency to treat the pastor as a “hired hand” instead of as a fellow member of the community of faith.


3. Say Insulting Things About His Less Than Perfect Wife

Did you know that a lot of pastor’s wives didn’t marry a pastor? A lot of men get the call to ministry after they are married, so it’s always good to cut them a little slack. That being said, pastor’s wives are often the target of a lot of trash talk.

For some reason a lot of people have an unrealistic model of what the perfect pastor’s wife should look and act like. I guess she’s supposed to be the Proverbs 31 woman, head of the nursery, teaching three kids Sunday School classes, head of AWANAs, always smiling, remembering everyone’s birthday and anniversary, and never have a hair or opinion out-of-place.

Well, sorry to say, that’s not reality. God made all pastor’s wives different and with unique personalities and gifts. Some are outspoken, some are quiet, some make friends easily, some keep to themselves, some like to cook 15 dishes for the potluck and some will bring a premade cake from Kroger.

pastorswifeUnfortunately, some churchgoers feel the need to pick at the pastor’s wife whether through gossip, low voices in the pews, or even Facebook. “Why does she always look so miserable?” “Why doesn’t she relate to people better?” “Why is she so outspoken?” “Why doesn’t she teach a Sunday School class?” “She didn’t say hello to me today.” “Why does she always seem so distant?” Hmmmm. Maybe it’s because she’s wondering why everyone is always staring at her with inquisitive looks on their faces.

4. Join a Few Others Who Think It’s Time For The Pastor “To Go” For Arbitrary Reasons

Now, it’s true a pastor can outlast his welcome by messing things up or by being a poor leader. No doubt about that. There are reasons to fire a guy or suggest he move on. But that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about when people get it in their head that they just need a new pastor every 3-10 years and find ridiculous reasons for it.

He’s just a better preacher than a pastor.” “He preaches too much about evangelism.” “I just don’t like the version of the Lord’s Prayer he uses.” “Seems like he’s been here too long.

Have we ever thought that maybe our problems with our pastor say more about us than they do about him? Let’s dig a little deeper. Maybe our problems with the person in the pulpit have more to do with our what’s lacking in our own relationship with God than they do with any church leader.

5. Argue and Disagree With Any Idea He Has For Kingdom Growth

Who would have a problem with church growth? I can answer that one, actually. I was awake the day they taught that in seminary. On the surface, most people love church growth. But when the church grows, it inevitably changes. And well, we all know how most people feel about change. We don’t like it too much. That’s why we try to 12angrymenuse words like “adapt” instead.

So when the pastor has an idea for growth or a plan for evangelism or anything that has to do with outreach, there will be some who will grumble. It just doesn’t fit into their own personal model of how things are or how things should be.

Well, pastor, we’ve tried that before.” “That’s not for us.” “That plan you’re suggesting sounds a little bit *gasp* liberal.” That’ll stop that plan for growth in its tracks.

6. Final Step: Simply Decide He’s Not The Right Man For “The Job”

When a group of people has decided they’ve had enough of the pastor, they can sway others pretty well. Lies can be told – “I hear he gets his sermons right off the Internet!” “He doesn’t spend enough time to justify what we’re paying him.

When this happens, it’s unfortunate. It’s something I’ve pointed out since I wrote my book. We have a tendency to treat the pastor as a “hired hand” instead of as a fellow member of the community of faith. When we look at him, we  see a guy we hired, can fire, and find a new one. We see an investment for our local church instead of a human being with a calling from God.

What we should be seeing is a minister gifted by God, called to our local fellowship, to be transparent, open, and part of us. We walk together, fall together, forgive together, and love one another.

Let’s not be in a hurry to run anyone off from our churches. Let’s invest the love of Christ in anyone who joins our local fellowship, loving them as we love ourselves.

Looking for more? Thom Rainer of Lifeway is the king of articles like this. I love his posts about pastors and church. I recommend these:

“Seven Ways To Hurt Your Pastor”

“14 Things NOT to Say To Your Pastor”

“8 Negative Reasons Pastors Leave a Church”

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

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

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

Is Repentance Possible From The Fallen Pastor?

Posted by fallenpastor | Posted in adultery, fallenness, pastors | Posted on 30-12-2014

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repentsWhen a pastor falls from the ministry, due to adultery, embezzlement, alcoholism, or whatever, the immediate desired response is that he repent on the spot. Repentance, as we know it, is a turning away from his sin and moving back toward God. Is repentance possible for the fallen pastor?

If he has left his wife or committed adultery, he needs to cut off all contact with the woman he is with and try to reconcile with his wife and family.

To do this, he needs the help of his church, counselors, and spiritual people who are willing to walk with him in restoration for a long time. It will be a difficult process. It will be a long process. In the beginning, he may not want to come back, but if he shows repentance, along with the support of the church, he may come back.

Even if he does, he will always have the albatross of sin tied around his neck for the rest of his life. I do know of many pastors who restored with their wives who reentered into ministry under the care of gracious churches.

That’s the easy one. Then we have the pastors, who I have written about extensively in my book, “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World,” who for whatever reason, decided not to turn from their sin. In my book, I talk about the stages the pastor goes through in the early days of his fall. He is angry over a lot of things, he feels rejected, he knows he has sinned, yet he is looking to justify his sin.

Few reach out to him and often, the only friend he has is the woman he has chosen to be with. These aren’t excuses for anconflict unrepentant attitude, they are the reality in which he lives.

Which brings me to a most important point – his issues didn’t start overnight. He didn’t wake up one day and decide to commit adultery. His temptation was preceded by years of issues, conflict, marriage issues and ultimately, temptation. The confusion he now finds himself in are a result of his own sin and he has to face the consequences.

He may reach out to his wife at some point to discuss reconciliation to find it isn’t possible. He may not wait long enough for the anger to reside. He may just be stagnant in his sin and keep pushing on. He may just want to be with this new woman. Regardless, he has made his choice, leaving many people behind hurt and disillusioned.

Someday, though, the light goes on. It probably goes on after he’s remarried or after reconciliation with his wife has long passed. His heart begins to turn to God and He realizes he has sinned greatly, but there is little he can do about his sin.

He knows he can write letters of apology, call the church deacons, apologize to his former wife, family, but he cannot undo the past. He turns to God for forgiveness and God forgives. He always does.

King David committed adultery with Bathsheba, then to hide his sin, he had her husband murdered. There’s no reconciliation to be had there with anyone. But after his sin was discovered, he poured out his heart to God for forgiveness. But where’s the repentance? He can’t undo the adultery and murder. God wanted a repentant heart in David. And David was broken when he wrote Psalm 56 and I believe he turned his heart to God. He couldn’t un-murder Uriah, but he could repent for his actions.

There are many that believe that a fallen pastor who did not reconcile with his wife can never be truly repentant. They make a good point. Their point is that unless you go back to your wife and family, you are not repentant. You are still a sinner and out of the will of God.

I’ve posed this question to a lot of counselors and seminary professors and people with a much higher pay grade than me. Why? Not so I could justify myself. But because I want to be right with God. After my divorce, reconciliation was not to be had, I remarried and went on. I spent a  lot of time in anger and bitterness.

sinnomoreThen, I had my moment with God. My moment where I asked if I could be truly repentant. I was reminded of the woman caught in adultery. He told her to “Go and sin no more.” I was reminded of the tax collectors who came to Christ and the result of their life was to stop living in a way that was dishonoring to God. The thief on the cross was granted entrance into heaven based on his belief. Paul, on the road to Damascus, was transformed by Christ and his life took a turn completely God-ward.

None of these people could do anything about their past at that point. It was what it was. The tax collector refunded the people’s money. Some could go and apologize to those they had harmed. But Christ desired a heart change. He wanted them to “go and sin no more.” He wanted the sin they had committed that led them there to stop.

Quote me how divorce is adultery and remarriage is adultery. I understand. I understand the sins committed in those days were done out of my own selfishness, due to the circumstances around me, due to my own desire to sin. All my sin. But I also know I was forgiven.

And if I quote Hershael York once, I’ll quote him a thousand times. He said to me, “You have to make your repentance more notorious than your sin.” He wasn’t excusing what I had done, but recognizing that I had sinned. But now that I had, I had to live a life of holiness, a life pleasing to God.

Unfortunately, for the fallen pastor, for many, he will always be seen as the man with the Scarlet Letter emblazoned upon him. Not worthy of forgiveness or trust. Hated by many, scorned by his former pastor friends, and not worthy of any service to God. I know better. There is hope. God is never done with His servants who turn their hearts toward Him. God has forgotten your sin if you repent and turn away from former things. Even if others bring it up, God has cast it as far as the east is from the west.

If you’re a fallen pastor and are reading this, regardless of what stage you are in, there is hope for repentance. Deep down, you know what to do. Turn to God, seek Him and He will answer.

(This is a repost from a while back, but I thought it might help those who are new to the site – God bless).

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.