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Even The Agnostic Gets It

I’ve been in counseling for about five months. I take that back. I’ve been in counseling since college on and off. But recently, since my fall, I’ve been in counseling for five months. It’s been very productive. If you’ve read my blog, you can tell I have a bunch of...

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A Haunting Story of Pastor Suicide

Posted by Ray Carroll | 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)

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

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

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

Why Do Pastors Commit Adultery?

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, affair, pastors | Posted on 07-08-2014

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My site is discovered because of all types of searches. But one of the most common search phrases is “Why do pastors adulterycommit adultery?”

I did. Four years ago. I wasn’t looking to commit adultery – and I don’t believe most pastors who cross the line are looking for it. I wrote a book about my fall and the stories of eleven other men who fell. I learned a lot about the circumstances that can make a pastor weak. Pastors are responsible for their sin. There are emotional, marriage, church and other issues that I outline in my book that can make the pastor weak.

So how is it that those who are the most respected people in our communities can commit a sin that most everyone finds to be the ultimate example of betrayal? Even in Scripture, God uses the language of adultery to compare Israel to be a people who have abandoned Him spiritually.

Let’s back up for a moment. Without sounding cynical, I have always found it interesting how most people watch television and movie dramas. My favorite example is the movie, “Bridges of Madison County.” If you’re not aware of the plot, after a woman dies in her old age, her children discover she had a brief affair with a photographer a long time ago. The movie basically justifies her adultery by showing how the main character was neglected by her husband and how the photographer filled a void in her life. If you watch the movie, you will probably find yourself justifying her actions. And hey, that’s where the plot leads you. It’s Hollywood.

bridgesBut this is not a one time occurrence. Soap operas, movies, television, reality television (those are all very interesting links, by the way) are all set up to create sexual tension. Not to mention the 50 Shades drama a few years ago. We discovered that one of the main reading audiences was Christian women. We have a sexually charged society. We find ourselves rooting for characters to cheat on their spouses, but it’s okay, because they’re only characters in a fictional story.

But when adultery happens in our social circles or in our family, we find it appalling. And we should. Because it is.

But hold on for a second. When we see sex on the big screen, it is sensationalized and made to look like it has no consequences. Just like most violence. The first movie I can remember that ever showed the consequences of violence was “Unforgiven.” (Lots of Clint Eastwood in this blog.)

So where am I going with all of this?

I’m not justifying pastoral adultery. Don’t hear me saying that culture has made us weak and so any of us are prone to commit sin. No, that’s not it. But we do have an interesting social standard. We often think we are immune from television, the songs we hear, or the movies we watch. But we aren’t. How many of us tell our children, “Garbage in, garbage out“?

In my book, I note several things that lead a pastor to weakness: poor relationship with spouse, isolation, conflict with church, and overly high expectations.

Uncontrolled and not seeking help, any of us can be weakened to a point where we will commit sin. But adultery is one of the sins that most Americans seems to hate the most. Despite the fact that statistics show that 25% of Americans have cheated on their spouse but not been caught. Worse yet, 37% of pastors have crossed the line.

Should pastors or any other person cheat? No. It’s a sin. Are there factors that make people weak? Yes. When we commit sin, it’s ours. We own it. Temptation may lead us to a sin, but we don’t have to commit it.

When someone is caught in an affair, there is obviously something that is fulfilling a desire for them. And it’s happening on several fronts. There may be a need that they feel their spouse isn’t fulfilling. There is an escape from stress or conflict. Guilt? Yes. But the risk is greater affairthan the reward.

But nothing ever lasts like that. Affairs are temporary. Any way it goes, one of the people figures out that it’s a fairy tale or both of them figure out that they really want to be together. Everything falls apart. One of them wants everything or one of them realizes the risks and knows it’s not worth it. Maybe it’s guilt, maybe it’s true repentance. But most of the time the remorse comes after the physical sin has occurred.

I can’t tell you how many pastors have contacted me and said “Well, I’ve cheated, my wife doesn’t know, but I’ve stopped seeing the woman I was with. I’m just going to stop. I think I can go on like I was before.” No, you can’t. Scripture says that our sin will find us out.

One statistic in my book is that 33% of conservative clergy have crossed the line with a woman not heir spouse but have not been caught.

Why do pastors commit adultery? The same reason anyone else does. Because we sin. Because something has broken in our relationship between God. Because something is broken in our relationship with our spouse. Because we allow ourselves to get weak and don’t reach out for help. Because we think we are stronger than we are. But we are not. We all need help. We need a community of faith, mentors, friends, family and a net to fall into.

But we fall when we think we can manage our grief, our pain, our conflict, our pain all on our own. We decide to find comfort elsewhere. We never would have considered it before, but when our souls are in pain, we will be more susceptible than we have ever noexcusebeen. All of us. Not just pastors.

Bottom line. There is no excuse. We have sinned. We have fallen short. But pastors need restoration and the help of the church and community of faith. (Galatians 6:1). Any Christian who sins horribly needs the support of those around them. The Christian leaders need to see whether that Christian is going to show signs of repentance – any sign of repentance. If they do, then they need to provide help. Even if they have to go outside the church to provide it.

This ministry. Fallen pastor. That’s what it’s here for. If you don’t know where to go or if you’re confused, contact me. I am here to help.

Other Helpful Articles:

Seven Warning Signs of Affairs of for Pastors and Other Church Staff” by Thom Rainer

Why Affairs Happen,” by Cindy Crosby

How to Have an Affair (and Ruin Everything)” by Kurt Kubna

____________________________

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 Ways a Pastor Can Avoid Being Judgmental

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in judgmental, pastors | Posted on 28-07-2014

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When I was researching for my book, I found a common characteristic in a lot of pastors who had fallen from the ministry. Many of them had a twinge of judgmentalism. Some of them (like me) just thought they were being biblical and saw things as black and white all the time. Most of them did not realize that there was a difference in understanding the truth of Scripture and applying it with love and compassion.

In the years since my fall, I’ve had time to talk to a lot of fallen pastors and I keep in touch with guys who are still doing the work of pastor. lawnI’d like to offer 3 quick tips on how to avoid being too judgmental.

Don’t be the expert about other people’s lawns. Once in a while, I get behind the owner of a local landscaping service while he drives home. He doesn’t watch the road much. Instead, he looks at other people’s lawns and shakes his head in pity a lot. One of the traps pastors can fall into is becoming too concerned about how other pastors are doing at their respective churches.  Some guys can have a tendency to bash another pastor’s work when things aren’t going well at his own church. This just causes divisiveness and bitterness. We really need to be concerned about our own lawns.

Don’t launch scud missile sermons. I heard a guy use this term during a breakout session at a pastor’s conference. He basically said, “When we get frustrated with the sin of someone in the church or angry with a deacon, sometimes we take matters into our own hands and launch a little scud missile sermon at them. We preach a sermon directed just at them and what we think they’re doing. And what usually happens is that they either don’t show up that Sunday or don’t realize we’re preaching at them.” If we are concerned about sin, that’s biblical. But we need to consider handling it privately first.

Look beyond the sinner and find Christ. I was very judgmental as a pastor. I thought upholding God’s law and practicing harsh church discipline were pleasing to Him. I thought Christ wanted a pure church and that those were the means to do it. Somewhere along the lines, I got mean about it. But church discipline isn’t mean. It’s restorative. We’re supposed to be Christ-like when we run across a major sin. Part compassion, part encouraging to repentance, and part waiting for God to act upon their heart.

Pastor, you may not realize that you struggle with this. Ask some of your close friends. Ask your wife. Better yet, allow Scripture to move upon your heart and look upon the works and words of Christ as your guide.

Other helpful articles:

What is the difference between discernment and being judgmental?” at Bible.org

What’s the difference between judging and being judgmental?” Church of the Holy Comforter

The Responsibility to Rebuke,” by John MacArthur

__________________

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.

Men Who Smell Like Pigs: Restoring Fallen Pastors

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in fallenness, forgiveness, pastors, reconciliation | Posted on 23-07-2014

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repentaI’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 first type reminds me of Peter when Christ restored him in John 20. Jesus asked him three times if he loved him and jesusandpetePeter answered three times that he did. “Lord, you know I love you.”

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.

sonfatherI hate stretching parables out and making more of them than we’re supposed to, but I’m going to.

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.

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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.

Would You Let King David Preach At Your Church?

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in church, churches, fallenness, pastors, preaching, restoration | Posted on 21-07-2014

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delorean

“Quick, Marty, we need a supply minister. Let’s go get King David!”

Good question. Answer it quick. Right now. In your mind.

Yeah, it’s hypothetical. Would you let King David, if he were available right now – to preach one Sunday morning service in your church?

Yes. You would.

If you had hold of a DeLorean equipped with a flux capacitor, you would.

Why? Because he’s King David for crying out loud. Killed Goliath. Fought bears and lions. Was a man after God’s own heart. Heck, he fled when he knew he was the rightful man to be on the throne and was gracious to Saul. He loved his own son Absalom when Absalom wanted him dead. What a guy, right? Out of his lineage came our own Savior, Jesus Christ.

Oh, but wait. David has a mixed history. He had some wives. Some concubines. He committed murder and adultery.

I was talking to someone a while back that gave me some great insight on David. He said, “Despite David’s sin, he was always a man after God’s own heart. People would always judge him for his actions, but God always loved him for who he was.

David had struggle after struggle. Many of those struggles were his own fault. He sinned greatly, like many of the people we cherish in Scripture. Yet God showed them favor. Yet many pastors would allow David behind the pulpit to preach a sermon for one Sunday, wouldn’t we?

I ask that for an important reason. There are a lot of men who have fallen from the ministry. Since I fell almost five years ago, I have spoken to hundreds of them by text, email or phone. I have spoken to their wives, their church members or their families. I have referred them to others for help.

Some of them, like myself, did not reconcile with our first wife for whatever reason. Here’s a question, what wife was David supposed to reconcile with? Don’t hear me making a justification argument for my sin. I sinned. And I’ve made that very clear. Every fallen pastor I’ve dealt with and interviewed in my book takes complete blame for their sin.

But each man either reconciled with their wife or moved on. Even if they didn’t reconcile, they eventually found forgiveness from God and decided to walk a path of holiness from that point forward. The eggs had been broken and scrambled. There was nothing to be done.

Each of these men, like myself, had discovered that God is gracious beyond what we deserve. We don’t deserve to wake up in the morning. We don’t deserve God’s grace.

For the fallen pastor who has been restored, many of them have had a chance to tell their story from the pulpit. They’ve had a chance to preach or talk to a congregation. This isn’t the same as restoring them back to the pastorate – it’s giving them a chance to talk about the grace they’ve been shown and to talk about the grace and mercy of Christ.

The question is, “Would you let a fallen pastor who has been restored preach in your church?”

Since my fall and my restoration, I’ve had grace extended to me by several pastors. They have allowed me to preach. I’m not asking to be restored to the pastorate, but I was given grace to speak at their churches. Let me tell you what I discovered.

First, I found that my preaching was filled with more grace and love than I ever had when I was a pastor. Before my fall, I was more judgmental and harsh than I was after. After I fell, I preached from my heart, but still from the word, but with compassion for the hearts of the people.

Second, I found that people connected with someone who had fallen so far. People in the congregation want their pastor to be of high regard and of high moral standards. That’s the way it should be. When I spoke, I told them of the dangers of sin, the dangers of wandering from God, and my own story. I told them of the importance of holiness and how Christ loves us despite our sin.

What I’m saying is that inviting a restored fallen pastor into your pulpit isn’t much of a danger. In fact, it can be helpful to you and your congregation. Talk to him first, face to face. Find out what he has to say. Hear his story and his journey.

The first time I preached after my fall, I wasn’t sure what to think. But I preached on John 8, the woman caught in adultery. I was very clear about what I had done and about how awful sin is. But I also spoke about the compassion and forgiveness of Christ.

That Sunday, three people responded. One was a woman who had been committing adultery with a man for eight years. She broke it off that week and was baptized by the pastor the following week. The next was a visiting church deacon who confessed he had committed adultery. Finally, another deacon who wanted to talk to me about his adultery. I praise God for that. I had little to do with it.

I had someone say to me, “I love our pastor and I hear what he has to say, but your story touched me because you’ve been through it.

Almost every time I preach, I have people come up to me and say, “I need help. I’ve been where you were and I want help.

Friends, I don’t like the fact that I’ve been through it. But I’ve been forgiven. And I guarantee you that there are men around you that have stories to tell that can help those in your congregation.

Do we really believe that God works all things together for those who love Him? Pastors allow all kinds of people to share their testimonies, but it seems the ones we don’t allow are pastors who have committed adultery. The ones we want to kick off into the shadows and forget.

I’ll tell you this – I speak with fallen pastors every day. God has not forgotten them. They have sinned greatly. But God is not done with them. And their voices, once restored, can help many people in a great way.

Other helpful articles:

How To Prepare When You’re The Pulpit Supply” by Joan Huyser-Honig

Lessons Learned About Pulpit Supply” by Ed Eubanks

____________________________

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.

“You Can’t Unscramble The Egg”

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, consequences, pastors, prevention | Posted on 16-07-2014

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I just can’t believe one indiscretion has led to all of this. I’m about to lose my wife, my family and my ministry.eggs4

His voice was panicked. I could tell he would give anything to go back and undo his sin, but he couldn’t. I had talked to hundreds of pastors in his situation. He had been caught, his wife knew, the church knew. He had been caught up in a series of emotions and a relationship that had spiraled out of control.

Like most relationships pastors get into outside of their marriage, it starts so small they don’t even see the trouble coming. They don’t see that they are emotionally troubled. Things begin to happen and then they begin with emotional adultery, then they may or may  not cross the physical line.

I remember the first time I heard the line, You can’t unscramble the egg. I was 13. I was hooked on John MacArthur sermons. My parents had a treasure trove of his sermons and I had become part of the cassette tape lending service. It was a sermon on “Divorce and Remarriage.”

MacArthur is one of those guys who is so black and white. And I remember when he got to talking about what people should do when someone is divorced, remarried and there is no chance for reconciliation. That’s when I first heard the term. He wasn’t condoning any sin. He was doing his best to describe the situation when a line has been crossed and you can’t put things back together.

That’s the line that pastors cross when they commit emotional or physical adultery. There’s no going back. That’s why I can’t tell guys enough, “Don’t do it. Once you cross over, there’s no going back and undoing all the damage.

“You can’t unsqueeze the lemon”

I’ll get a call from a pastor once in a while who will ask, “But no one but me knows. No one but me and the woman I was with. It will just hurt my wife if I tell her. It will tear the church apart. Won’t I just be doing worse damage if I let others know about this?

lemonsThere’s dangerous thinking here. The problem with it is that it sounds good on the surface. It sounds noble – like we’re trying to save people from being hurt. See, I’ve been in that situation so I know what’s really going on. What we’re really trying to do is save face. We’ve committed sin and we don’t want to get caught. Why? Because we stand to lose everything. (I have blogged about this before in a couple of different articles that you should read if you haven’t before.)

The other side of it is that we are trying to conceal sin. God doesn’t stand for concealing sin. All sin will be brought to daylight. We can’t hide any of it. Ask King David.

The best thing any of us can do is start telling the truth. But that’s not exactly easy, is it? Because for months, we’ve been practicing lies. We’ve been practicing deceit. We’ve been hiding emails, text messages, secret meetings and doing a pretty good job at it. And when we get caught, our first instinct is to keep lying. But the best thing to do is to start telling the truth. And it’s hard. It’s gut wrenching. But it’s the best policy.

“You can’t unbite the cookie”

The answer to a multitude of deceit is not more deceit. Pastors should know this. When we were pastors and someone came to us and said, “I’ve been lying about something.” What would our counsel be? It would be, “You need to start telling the truth.

See, we know the Scriptures, that’s why it’s so hard to talk to ministers so often. John 8:32 tells us a very serious

Image courtesy of thegunnysack.com

Image courtesy of thegunnysack.com

truth: “You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.

It’s very difficult when we have dug such a deep hole and find ourselves at the bottom of it. When telling the truth means hurting those we love, losing the job we have fought for, finding disgrace, being embarrassed, and knowing that we have forsaken the calling of God.

But I’m going to shed some light here. God desires repentance. When we walk in sin, He wants us to return. Christ does value us, He loves us greatly and loves us deeply.

Telling the truth will be hard, it will make others hurt, but the lemon has been squeezed, the damage has already been done. It’s now a matter of deciding to repent and trust God in all things. Knowing that when He says He will restore us back to Him, He really means it.

Other helpful articles:

Think Twice Before You Commit Adultery” from The Good News Presbyterian Church

How to Confess Adultery to Your Spouse” by Dr. Don Dunlap, Pastoral Counselor

How Can I Heal My Marriage After Committing Adultery?” by John Piper

What Happens When the Worship Leader Commits Adultery?” by Roger Barrier

*Thanks to thegunnysack.com for the picture – it worked perfectly for the blog picture. The blog is run by Tonia who has all kinds of recipes and other great stuff. I ran across the pic doing an image search for what I needed for this blog post. The recipes there look great. That picture was for Ice Cream Filled Chocolate Chip Cookie Bites.

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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.

Dr. Heath Lambert on Preventing Moral Failure

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in counseling, fallenness, heath lambert, interview, pastors, prevention | Posted on 14-07-2014

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lambertI had the pleasure of sitting down with Dr. Heath Lambert recently and discussing several topics including temptation, biblical counseling, preventing ministry failure, and lust. Dr. Lambert is the assistant professor of Biblical Counseling at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He’s also the Executive Director of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors. He’s also author/co-author of several books, including “Finally Free: Fighting for Purity with the Power of Grace.

Introduction

Dr. Lambert and I began by talking about statistics of fallen ministers and his impression of them:

The statistic I have heard for a long time is that one-fifth or 20% of ministers will leave the ministry due to some form of moral failure. Those empirical numbers are not what matter to me the most. What matters to me the most is when you’re sitting there talking to a man and his wife who have just been devastated from leaving the ministry or talking to a woman who has been involved with a pastor.

So the 20% is a big number but when I have people talking to me, that’s when I feel the real weight of it.

Preventing Ministry Failure

One of the most important topics that we discussed was how to help pastors prevent ministry failure. We discussed this idea for biblical counselors and it is also relevant for anyone in ministry. For that matter, all Christians should be aware of the situations and temptations that we face.

Dr. Lambert discussed two types of prevention. First, he discussed external prevention. Safeguards we can place on our lives to prevent failure. These include having accountability, having an open door policy, and having a right relationship with your wife.

Prevention for ministers and biblical counselors:

External Prevention

- Have an office with windows so others can look in

- Avoid long-term counseling with the opposite sex

1 Timothy 5 tells us to engage with women in ministry so I do meet and counsel women. I’m a woman’s pastor just as I am a man’s pastor. But it’s important to avoid ongoing counseling with the opposite sex. There’s a difference between ‘I’m going to meet with you a couple of times so I can find out what’s going on’ vs. meeting with a member of the opposite sex in an ongoing counseling relationship.

- Don’t meet with just one spouse for marriage counseling

One thing I say to people is, if you’re only meeting with the husband or wife by themselves, it’s not marriage counseling.

- Don’t meet with a woman without having another woman nearby

Dr. Lambert has an open door policy. He has a female staff member near the door who is aware of the counseling going opendooron. He recommends in a church setting having a staff member outside the door or having a woman sit in the counseling session with you.

- Keep your wife informed

As soon as you start being aware that you’re meeting with a woman and that you’re not telling your wife about it or you’re not telling her about things happening in the meeting, you need to know there’s a problem. I’m not talking about things that are privileged information either. Some things that happen in counseling situations that need to stay confidential. But there may be times when a person you’re counseling texts you or says something that you want to keep from your wife. If that’s happening, there is a problem.

- Listen to your wife

There have been four or five times when my wife has been more aware of situations of trouble that I might have been getting into than I was.” (Dr. Lambert and I agreed to call it women’s intuition). “She has seen things coming before I have. I have learned to listen to her and her wisdom. She is just a better judge of character than I am. She’s been right every time.

- Be an open book with your wife

My wife isn’t nosy. My email is just right there. She uses my phone. I’m not doing anything to hide from her. We live life openly and don’t have any secrets. There is one woman I have to make happy in the world and that’s my wife.

- Have others you are accountable to

There are four guys I am accountable to. They know everything about me. If they wanted to write a tell-all book about me, they could do it. These are guys I tell every struggle and thought to. Things I don’t even necessarily share with my wife first. I might share with them that I am struggling with lust or dishonesty. They help me to see weak spots and share things with me in the most honest and candid manner.

- Make your wife a point of conversation

“I’m not going out of my way to talk about her. I’m leading with my wife in conversation. She’s on my mind. The women that know me and work with me know that there’s no room in my life for them. Which is what they should think.”

Internal Prevention

External prevention is helpful, but for a Christian to avoid temptation and moral failure, it cannot end there. The soul must be on guard and a person’s relationship with Christ must be pursued along with personal holiness.

Dr. Lambert: “The reality is that you can do all those things and still commit adultery. You can put a window in your office door and still commit adultery. You can give up on your commitment to value your wife as soon as you meet a pretty girl in a restaurant out of town. You can create a private email or buy a second cell phone. You can give the appearance of having accountability if you want.

God is honest about the temptation, he’s honest about the fallout, but He doesn’t just talk about the forbidden woman . . . but He also talks about this perfect picture of your wife. That’s an invitation for us to fight, to treasure our wives.

The battle is won or lost at the level of our intentions. What do I intend to do with women? I think about that in a couple of ways. One thing I try to do is urge men to get close to Jesus. Nobody ever committed adultery or got found in some persistent problem with adultery when they were nurturing intimacy and closeness in their walk with Jesus Christ.

One of the things I am praying every single morning is ‘Jesus will you give me you? Will you make me like you? Will you give me passion for you?’ Because when Jesus is filling up your heart, he’s defining the categories of your heart. And he’s defining what there is and is not room for in your heart.

The Allure of Temptation

Dr. Lambert said he prayed for several things every day in his pursuit for Christ including purity and a better relationship with his wife. In doing so, a Christian is insulating themselves from lust but also turning their hearts toward their wives.

In Proverbs 5 and 7, there’s a sense in which the author is very honest about the forbidden woman. She’s very tempting. She’s got an attractive offer for you. Her husband is out of town, he’s not coming back for a month, she’s decorated her house, she’s put some perfume on, and come, let’s take our fill of love. She’s not telling you this is going to be the least thrilling thing you’ve ever done. She’s not saying, “everyone you know is going to find out, your ministry is going to be over.” She’s saying, “you’re going to have the time of your life.”

temptationIn Proverbs 5 and 7, God is very honest about seduction. But God is very honest that if you follow her, you’ll be like an ox led to the slaughter.

God is honest about the temptation, he’s honest about the fallout, but He doesn’t just talk about the forbidden woman, but back in the 20’s of Proverbs 5, He says ‘start thinking about your wife.’ He says, ‘let her breasts satisfy you. Rejoice in her love.’ So He gives you this true picture of this thing to fight against but He also talks about this perfect picture of your wife. That’s an invitation for us to fight, to treasure our wives.

Fighting Temptation By Focusing on Your Wife

You’ll hear some guys say when you’re looking at a woman with lust, ‘bounce your eyes.’ I want to do that, I want to look away, but I also want to bounce my heart. So, I’m trying to cultivate with discipline of bouncing my eyes, ‘no, not that,’ but to do more. And to think about what my wife does that makes me happy. Think about what she does that encourages me. Think about what I would like our life to be like in 30 years.

Another thing I’m doing is looking for opportunities to nurture the affections in my heart for her. So I have on my iPhone a set of songs that I will only listen to if I promise to only think about her. If I am feeling really frustrated with her, rather than just feel frustrated with her, I’ll plug my iPhone into the car and start thinking about my wife. We’re structured so music strikes a chord with our affections. So I’ll just listen to George Strait, “Carried Away,” and start thinking about my wife.

I also have five things about my wife that are awesome that I think about when I’m frustrated with her or if I’m tempted. These are things that are true of her that are true of no one else and they stir my heart.”

A Right Relationship With Other Women

The next thing is that in the 1 Timothy 5 sense it says we are to treat women with all purity. There are two relationships described in Scripture we are to have with women. The first is with our wives as described in Song of Solomon.

The other one is the sisterly relationship. I find that every time you look at a woman, every time you engage with a woman, you are making a choice about what’s going to motivate your looking at her. About what is going to motivate your interacting with her. Is my interaction with you, my conversation with you, my looking at you motivated by lust or some kind of desire to impress you to have this be something other than it is? Or is it motivated by loving you as a talkingsister with all purity?

I don’t have a sister, but I have a daughter. And I have affection for both. But the difference is daylight and dark between the types of affection. So I have a gut check when I have a conversation with another woman, I ask, ‘What’s motivating my looking at you?’ And if I’m aware that I’m motivated by something other than sisterly purity, then I know in that moment to say, ‘Lord, forgive me, give me grace to be motivated by sisterly purity as I engage with this woman.’

Having the Right Intentions

Those motivations are where the battle is won or lost. I’m for windows in the door and all that, they’re all important, but ultimately, if you’re not motivated by sisterly purity but by the lust of the eyes, then all of the windows, and accountability won’t matter.

But if you are motivated by sisterly purity and a woman is in a mind to commit adultery and there is no window in the door, you’re not going to fall in that moment. Why? Because you’ve spent time cultivating the idea, ‘you’re not for me, my wife is, and this wouldn’t honor Jesus.’

For pastors seeking to be educated and stronger in biblical counseling, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary has distance and on-site learning classes available. For any church member looking to strengthen their counseling base, The Association of Biblical Counselors has weekend and other programs to train you to be effective in your congregation.

Other helpful links:

Interview with Heath Lambert on ‘Finally Free” by Grant Castleberry

Dr. Heath Lambert’s Testimony

Porn, Pride, and Praise: An Interview with Heath Lambert” by Desiring God

If you have been moved by Dr. Lambert’s words and need help, please take time to purchase his book, “Finally Free: Fighting for Purity With the Power of Grace.”

Special thanks to my friend and mentor, Dr. Hershael York, for making this interview possible.

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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.

“Ye Which Are Spiritual”: Guest Blog by Bobby Sutton

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in book, churches, pastors, restoration | Posted on 11-07-2014

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bobbyToday, I’m pleased to let my new friend Bobby Sutton write what is on his heart. I recently wrote a review about his book that I encourage you to read. He has a heart for the restoration of fallen pastors back to Christ and he has a very important message about fallen pastors who still have a calling in this world. His post reads like a call to every fallen pastor and every person who wants to see the current situation in our churches change for the better. I know you will find his words encouraging and challenging.

Ye Which are Spiritual

by Bobby Sutton

Paul said to the church at Galatia that if a man be overtaken in a fault (sin) then the spiritual are the ones who are to be instrumental in a restoration process (Galatians 6:1). I am a fallen pastor. Fifteen years and four months ago, I had an affair and the aftershocks have continued through the years.

With 25 years of ministry gone, and the collapse of a 35 year marriage and in the process of finding my way back to a relationship with God, I have not encountered many of “the spiritual.” Quoting from my book “I Slept With Potiphar’s Wife” chapter eight on restoration concerning Galatians chapter six:

“According to Jamieson, Fausset and Brown commentary the word restore in Greek is katartizete is used of a dislocated limb being put back in place, According to other Greek authorities the word refers to setting bones, mending nets. The instructions are clear as to how we are to treat ‘fallen’” brothers and sisters. We are to treat them with the same tenderness a physician would treat a broken patient. I think the key words are ‘ye which are spiritual.’

“You can throw a hand grenade into a room full of people and then criticize the way that they react, but unless you are in the room, you do not have the right to complain about their reaction. I threw the grenade and I did criticize some of the reaction. I was astonished to find that most of the people I had associated with for thirty years were not spiritual. In fact, the organization I was affiliated with has absolutely no restoration process for ministers that fall. That may be terrible to say, but unless in the last ten years something has changed (I’ve been out of the loop), they still do not.

“I had some ministers call me and offer prayer. I had some call and offer my spouse and children (all of who are potipharexcellent musicians and singers) a place to go to church. I was not included in that invitation. No one said anything about restoration.

“My younger brother who pastors in Birmingham, Alabama came to help our family. Friends of the family from Botswana came to help in any way that they could. Some of the church people were doing all they could to aid our family in this dire situation. The organization as a whole did nothing but write Ichabod, “the glory has departed”, over me and my family. It wasn’t just only the organization but ministers that I thought were brothers.

“I can understand the reaction to me. I committed the sin and I needed to be removed. But I do not understand the complete desertion of my family by people who consistently profess their spirituality.”

Since the time of writing this chapter of the book I have had very few encounters with spiritual folks. I had a somewhat revealing conversation with a young minister a short time ago and he said concerning preachers that have fallen,”All of the ones I have heard about do not come back, they just leave and you never hear of them again.” I guess that is the most comfortable way to handle the situation, but it is not the biblical way.

I tried to “leave and not come back” but God keeps calling me and I am grateful for the call. Ministers quote the scripture that speaks of the gifts and calling of God are without repentance (Romans 11:29). I guess they are saying they agree with that scripture but not necessarily in their church or organization.

I was astonished to find that most of the people I had associated with for thirty years were not spiritual. In fact, the organization I was affiliated with has absolutely no restoration process for ministers that fall. That may be terrible to say, but unless in the last ten years something has changed (I’ve been out of the loop), they still do not.”

What I am seeking is a complete restoration to Christ and to pulpit ministry. The word restoration means to be put back the way it was before the injury. The church world we live in today does not have a real picture of the process and the replacement of “broken” preachers, that still have a call of God in their spirit. I have met some ministers that have excepted me into their church, but did not really know what to do with me. I’m sure if you are reading this blog you know where I am coming from.

How do we “fix” the problem? Most folks that I share my story with are not aware that 19,000 ministers leave the work of God a year. Most are unaware these preachers and their families are left to wander in their own wilderness until they find a source of help, give up and let the nature of their predicament take it’s course or they stumble upon a blog or a website that offers help.

I commend every minister, that I have met through Fallenpastor.com, for the work you are doing in the restoration of pastors. Brethren do not let the enemy tell you that you are not helping. Believe me, it is a breath of fresh air to realize there are spiritual people who are doing what they can to offer help to the fallen. I am praying with you, that together we can get the word out, so every fallen pastor can find a source of help in a time of need or can find help to negate the situation before it goes too far. God bless you and your families.

Other related articles:

Restoring Fallen Pastors,” by Eric Reed

Restoring the Fallen,” by Douglas Weiss, Ph.D.

Should Fallen Pastors Be Restored?” by John MacArthur

Book: “Restoration Manual: A Workbook For Restoring Fallen Ministers and Religious Leaders,” by Thomas L. Pedigo

Fallen Pastors Can Be Restored: A Personal Tale, Part 2” by Ray Carroll

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You will be blessed by Bobby Sutton’s book, “I Slept With Potiphar’s Wife.” He approaches pastoral restoration from a first-hand account that few have ever considered. It is available from his publisher’s site or other online retailers. Please check out my review on a previous post.

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

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

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

5 Things Christians Can Do When A Pastor Falls

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, church members, fallenness, help, pastors | Posted on 09-07-2014

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reachingoutWhat should a church member do when a pastor’s sin is uncovered? The pastor’s sin could be anything ranging from adultery to embezzling. I’ve put together a few quick questions someone should ask in reference to a pastor’s sin and their own struggle with the issues.

1. How will I and my family react long term and short term? When a pastor falls or sins and is dismissed, the church member and each family typically goes through a difficult time that is similar to the grief cycle one encounters after losing a loved one. Each family and church member needs to prepare for this struggle and look for support in Christ, their church family and possibly counseling.

2. How will our church as a whole react? How will our church leadership react? The church as a whole will often follow the reaction of the leadership. Leadership needs input from the congregation, so encourage them to handle the situation in a Scriptural manner. Also, share with them the need to ask for help from other churches or church leaders if they feel they are not able to make a clear decision.

“On top of everything, think of this: ‘One day, I may very well fall. How would I want people to care for me?’”

3. How will we as a church react directly to the pastor? In other words, if his sin warrants that he resign, he is still to be treated as a brother in Christ. Some follow up questions might be, “How will our reaction to him impact our church now and years later? Is how we are treating him on a personal level Scriptural? Will it impact future decisions we make?”

4. Regardless of what the church leadership decides, what will I choose to do in relationship to the pastor? Or, how will I choose to treat the fallen pastor? Many people may choose to judge the pastor or cut ties with him personally. But we are all responsible for how we react. How are we to treat those who sin? Even if they disappoint us greatly? Going along with the crowd mentality is easy, but taking a stand for what is right is always difficult. Take time, pray, and study Scripture to make the right decisions.

5. Pray for him. After I fell, I heard through the grapevine that one of my former deacons had trouble praying for me. He said it took him a long time before he was able to think positively enough of me to say a prayer for me. That is absolutely understandable. Do your best. On top of everything, think of this: “One day, I may very well fall. How would I want people to care for me?

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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.

4 Factors That Lead To Ministry Failure

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, church, church members, fallenness, pastors | Posted on 07-07-2014

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fallenWhen a pastor falls morally, it is a devastating event. It is an affront to God, it harms many relationships, it violates the marriage vow, and leaves many disillusioned people in its wake. I know, because almost five years ago, I committed adultery while pastoring.

When it happens, people want to know, “Why did he do it? What was he thinking?I want to list 4 factors that lead to ministry failure.

Before I do, I want to make a couple of important remarks. First, the question, “Why did he commit adultery?” is a complex question that requires a complex answer. There’s not going to be an answer that gives anyone complete satisfaction. When I wrote a book where I interviewed other fallen pastors, I was able to identify factors that led to moral failure. But even knowing these things doesn’t bring complete comfort.

It’s also important to know that these points aren’t an excuse or justification for adultery. The ultimate answer for “why do we fall short?” is “because we are sinful people who disobey God.” At some point, when a pastor begins to take his eyes off of God and makes a conscious choice to fall into temptation, the sin is his to own. Sin is behind each of these problems listed below. These are factors that lead up to that point. For more discussions of these points, please search my blog or check out my book.

1. Isolation - Many pastors do not have a strong support system. A lot of pastors don’t even have a close friend. The Fuller Institute reported in a study that 70% of pastors said they did not have someone they considered a close friend. In the ministry, having close friends you can share things with and be accountable to is extremely important. Forming a network of fellow pastors, mentors, and counselors who can help you through tough times is paramount to ministry survival.

It’s also important to know that these points aren’t an excuse or justification for adultery. The ultimate answer for ‘why do we fall short?’ is ‘because we are sinful people who disobey God.’ At some point, when a pastor begins to take his eyes off of God and makes a conscious choice to fall into temptation, the sin is his to own.”

2. Poor Marriage Relationship – I know a lot of pastors who have a wonderful relationship with their spouse and family. I’m also involved in this ministry now to help pastors who are in trouble, fallen pastors, their wives, women who have had affairs with pastors, and church leaders and members. I’ve learned that there are many troubled ministry marriages out there. A Francis Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership study reported that 77% of pastors said they did not have a good marriage. The same report said that 30% of them reported they had either been in an ongoing affair or a one-time sexual encounter with a parishoner. A poor marriage is one of the strongest indicators that ministry failure is imminent.

3. Overly High ExpectationsI recently wrote a blog about high expectations and how they can lead to ministry failure Pastors should have high expectations. They have normal expectations for carrying out their job duties. They should be expected to have high moral character. But there are times when churches can expect too much. The Schaeffer report I quoted said that 71% stated they were burned out and they battle depression beyond fatigue on a weekly and even a daily basis. Extreme expectations can come from within or without, but if failure is to be prevented, communication must take place between the pastor and the leadership.

4. Judgmentalism/Pride – A lot of pastors who fall have a big problem with either judgmentalism and/or pride. The problem of judmentalism is not that the pastor understands what sin is and recognizes it. It is when he angrily demands control over every situation in a heavy-handed manner and without grace. Prideful pastors are those who demand their way and will rarely listen to counsel. The pulpit and position of pastor build them up and make them feel important instead of humble.

This ministry exists to help anyone who has experienced ministry and moral failure, or anyone on the brink of it. No matter who you are and how you’ve been affected, we will listen. You may feel broken and alone, but you’re not.

*All statistics can be found in my book.

Other helpful articles:

Why Pastors Fall Into Sin,” by Jack Frost

7 Steps to Avoid Sexual Sin and Stay in Ministry,” by Dustin Neeley

5 Reasons Ministers Are (More) Vulnerable to Sexual Temptation,” by Jeff Fisher

Seven Warning Signs of Affairs for Pastors and Other Church Staff,” by Thom S. Rainer

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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.