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When a Pastor Falls, pt. 2: Confronting the Pastor

Posted by fallenpastor | Posted in adultery, church leadership, church members, churches, community, conflict, forgiveness, humillity, judgmental, pastors, preachers, reconciliation, repentance | Posted on 23-10-2014

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

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

Meeting With the Minister

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

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

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

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

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

The Pastor’s Reaction

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

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

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

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

The Proper Response

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

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

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

The Pastor’s Wife

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

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

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

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

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

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

____________________________

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

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

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

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

Posted by fallenpastor | Posted in adultery, affair, church, church leadership, church members, churches, conflict, fallenness, gossip, leadership, ministry, pastoring, pastors, preachers, reconciliation | Posted on 02-10-2014

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I wanted to be able to write something to help churches and leaders have a guide for when their pastor falls. The crisisproblem is that no two situations are quite alike. And yet, all situations are very similar. For the next few posts, I want to give some help that comes from my experience and from the things I’ve read in the past four years.

When a pastor falls, it’s not an easy experience for anyone. The advice I’m giving is general advice for when a church learns that their pastor has fallen morally. He might have committed adultery with another person, he might have been engaged in what he calls an “emotional affair“, or he might have been engaged in a long time addiction to pornography. This post is designed to help the leaders in the church when the find out their pastor has fallen.

I want to start off with a few basic reminders before I start throwing out advice.

1. Remember that each and every decision needs to be bathed in prayer. People will be quick to act, easy to anger, and will be very hurt. Prayer has a way of focusing us in the right way.

2. Remember that decisions based on God’s Word, no matter how difficult they might be, will always be the right ones. A pastor who has committed adultery has forfeited his right to shepherd the flock for a time (that topic to be covered later).

3. But always remember that decisions based on God’s Word are always to be made with grace, love, and humility. If the pastor is removed, it should always be done with the grace of Galatians 6:1.

4. Never forget that there are many people involved in this matter. One man’s sin may be at the forefront, but there are many others who need care and need to see the church act with truth, love, and grace.

5. Keep it confidential until a decision is made. If your church leadership is gathering facts and talking to the pastor, gossip should not be part of anyone’s life. When the facts come in, your pastor may be cleared. If one of the church leaders goes home and tells his spouse all the details of an important meeting and word gets out and severely twisted, the damage may be too great.

6. Finally, never be afraid to ask for outside help. If your church leadership team isn’t sure about what to do, or you feel like you can’t seem to agree, find a mediator. Ask an expert for help. There are a lot of people I know and there are people provided by your denomination or association who can offer wisdom. Never feel like you’re alone or that you’re the first ones to go through this.

truefalseSo let’s get to some first steps in this matter. I don’t want to assume anything – like I said, people tend to find out differently and people tend to react differently.

Get The Facts Straight

Finding out that the pastor has committed some sort of adultery is not easy. The information can come in many different ways:

  • A rumor that has spread in the community
  • A church member might approach the church leadership with a printed out series of emails or Facebook messages that prove the pastor’s infidelity
  • An anonymous letter is sent to the pastor and church leadership from a woman claiming to be his mistress
  • The pastor’s wife might approach a deacon regarding her suspicions about the minister and a church member or staff member
  • A staff member might tell church leadership of an ongoing affair
  • At the end of a service, a church member/staff member might confess that the pastor has been cheating with them
  • The rumor might begin on a social media site (Facebook, Twitter) and get picked up by local media

There are many ways that church leadership can get informed of an issue the minister might be having. I’ve heard of or witnessed all of the scenarios listed above. The easiest thing to do is panic. The knee-jerk reaction is to fire the pastor.

The best thing to do is for the church leadership is to respond in a calm and biblical manner. Most church by-laws require some sort of due process for the minister. It is important to have a meeting with him. Before that meeting takes place, it is a good idea to do fact gathering from people who are knowledgeable about the situation.

The church leadership should take seriously any first-hand evidence that is presented to them. Always be wise with any evidence, discernmentunderstanding the people presenting it. Such a time requires discernment. If a person asks for a meeting with the church leadership and confesses to an affair with the pastor, should their claim be taken seriously? Absolutely. They have a right to be heard. Their claim should not be rejected outright. If they have evidence of communication, it is even more helpful. A problem can arise when someone rejects their claim because this person, “Isn’t the pastor. They aren’t trustworthy.”

Every person who has a justifiable claim has a right to be heard. Again, the claim may later be rejected as false or partially false, but all evidence needs to be weighed before rejecting any outright.

Gossip, innuendo, and rumor is not typically helpful. Anonymous letters are not the greatest. However, I have known many women who have written such letters and were truthful in what they wrote. Of course, the fact that they did not sign them led many to reject the claim. The church leadership should be careful in approaching such communication.

The pastor’s side of the story should be heard as well. He needs to understand the facts that have been gathered or given to the church leadership. One of the worst things that can happen in a meeting is for things to get personal. Sticking to the facts is very important.  I’ll talk more about meeting with the pastor later. But understand that it is important to always gather as much information as possible.

Don’t Read Into The Situation

If you do hear gossip, receive a letter, or have someone approach your leadership about your pastor’s fidelity, treat it as a serious matter.

One of the worst things we can do when an accusation is made (and no fault has been found in the pastor yet) is to think, “You know he has been acting weird lately,” or “He has always hugged the women in the church too long,” or “I never did feel comfortable around him.” You may feel those statements are true, but those statements may have nothing to do with the matter on the table now.

As church leaders, examine the facts as you have them, pray over them and prepare your heart for what decisions may lie ahead. Next time, we will examine meeting with the pastor, his reaction, and his spouse.

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

____________________________

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

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

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

When a Pastor Falls, 1: Help For Leaders

Posted by fallenpastor | Posted in adultery, affair, church, church leadership, church members, churches, conflict, fallenness, gossip, leadership, ministry, pastoring, pastors, preachers, reconciliation | Posted on 08-04-2014

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I wanted to be able to write something to help churches and leaders have a guide for when their pastor falls. The crisisproblem is that no two situations are quite alike. And yet, all situations are very similar. For the next few posts, I want to give some help that comes from my experience and from the things I’ve read in the past four years.

When a pastor falls, it’s not an easy experience for anyone. The advice I’m giving is general advice for when a church learns that their pastor has fallen morally. He might have committed adultery with another person, he might have been engaged in what he calls an “emotional affair“, or he might have been engaged in a long time addiction to pornography. This post is designed to help the leaders in the church when the find out their pastor has fallen.

I want to start off with a few basic reminders before I start throwing out advice.

1. Remember that each and every decision needs to be bathed in prayer. People will be quick to act, easy to anger, and will be very hurt. Prayer has a way of focusing us in the right way.

2. Remember that decisions based on God’s Word, no matter how difficult they might be, will always be the right ones. A pastor who has committed adultery has forfeited his right to shepherd the flock for a time (that topic to be covered later).

3. But always remember that decisions based on God’s Word are always to be made with grace, love, and humility. If the pastor is removed, it should always be done with the grace of Galatians 6:1.

4. Never forget that there are many people involved in this matter. One man’s sin may be at the forefront, but there are many others who need care and need to see the church act with truth, love, and grace.

5. Keep it confidential until a decision is made. If your church leadership is gathering facts and talking to the pastor, gossip should not be part of anyone’s life. When the facts come in, your pastor may be cleared. If one of the church leaders goes home and tells his spouse all the details of an important meeting and word gets out and severely twisted, the damage may be too great.

6. Finally, never be afraid to ask for outside help. If your church leadership team isn’t sure about what to do, or you feel like you can’t seem to agree, find a mediator. Ask an expert for help. There are a lot of people I know and there are people provided by your denomination or association who can offer wisdom. Never feel like you’re alone or that you’re the first ones to go through this.

truefalseSo let’s get to some first steps in this matter. I don’t want to assume anything – like I said, people tend to find out differently and people tend to react differently.

Get The Facts Straight

Finding out that the pastor has committed some sort of adultery is not easy. The information can come in many different ways:

  • A rumor that has spread in the community
  • A church member might approach the church leadership with a printed out series of emails or Facebook messages that prove the pastor’s infidelity
  • An anonymous letter is sent to the pastor and church leadership from a woman claiming to be his mistress
  • The pastor’s wife might approach a deacon regarding her suspicions about the minister and a church member or staff member
  • A staff member might tell church leadership of an ongoing affair
  • At the end of a service, a church member/staff member might confess that the pastor has been cheating with them
  • The rumor might begin on a social media site (Facebook, Twitter) and get picked up by local media

There are many ways that church leadership can get informed of an issue the minister might be having. I’ve heard of or witnessed all of the scenarios listed above. The easiest thing to do is panic. The knee-jerk reaction is to fire the pastor.

The best thing to do is for the church leadership is to respond in a calm and biblical manner. Most church by-laws require some sort of due process for the minister. It is important to have a meeting with him. Before that meeting takes place, it is a good idea to do fact gathering from people who are knowledgeable about the situation.

The church leadership should take seriously any first-hand evidence that is presented to them. Always be wise with any evidence, discernmentunderstanding the people presenting it. Such a time requires discernment. If a person asks for a meeting with the church leadership and confesses to an affair with the pastor, should their claim be taken seriously? Absolutely. They have a right to be heard. Their claim should not be rejected outright. If they have evidence of communication, it is even more helpful. A problem can arise when someone rejects their claim because this person, “Isn’t the pastor. They aren’t trustworthy.”

Every person who has a justifiable claim has a right to be heard. Again, the claim may later be rejected as false or partially false, but all evidence needs to be weighed before rejecting any outright.

Gossip, innuendo, and rumor is not typically helpful. Anonymous letters are not the greatest. However, I have known many women who have written such letters and were truthful in what they wrote. Of course, the fact that they did not sign them led many to reject the claim. The church leadership should be careful in approaching such communication.

The pastor’s side of the story should be heard as well. He needs to understand the facts that have been gathered or given to the church leadership. One of the worst things that can happen in a meeting is for things to get personal. Sticking to the facts is very important.  I’ll talk more about meeting with the pastor later. But understand that it is important to always gather as much information as possible.

Don’t Read Into The Situation

If you do hear gossip, receive a letter, or have someone approach your leadership about your pastor’s fidelity, treat it as a serious matter.

One of the worst things we can do when an accusation is made (and no fault has been found in the pastor yet) is to think, “You know he has been acting weird lately,” or “He has always hugged the women in the church too long,” or “I never did feel comfortable around him.” You may feel those statements are true, but those statements may have nothing to do with the matter on the table now.

As church leaders, examine the facts as you have them, pray over them and prepare your heart for what decisions may lie ahead. Next time, we will examine meeting with the pastor, his reaction, and his spouse.

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

____________________________

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

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

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

Pastoral Adultery Doesn’t Happen Overnight

Posted by fallenpastor | Posted in adultery, church, church members, compassion, fallenness, forgiveness, gossip, ministry, pastoring, pastors, preachers, prevention | Posted on 20-01-2014

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pastorad“Our pastor committed adultery! How did this happen?”

If I’ve heard this once since I fell from ministry, I’ve heard it a thousand times. When a pastor falls, it is a shocking thing to the church and community. People’s emotions range from shock then to anger in a matter of days. “How could he?”

Let’s deal with the reality first. Here are a few statistics that I quoted in my book, “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World“:

  • 80% of pastors and 84% of their spouses are discouraged and dealing with depression
  • More than 40% of pastors and 47% of their spouses report they are suffering from burnout, frantic schedules and unrealistic expectations
  • Approximately 1,500 pastors leave their assignments each month due to moral failure, spiritual burnout, or contention within their local congregations
  • 89% of pastors stated they considered leaving the ministry at one time

Now, back to the pastor who cheated . . .

After the gossip wagon kicks into full gear and everyone knows who the pastor cheated with, the people begin to make assumptions. “Oh, I always thought I saw him paying her more attention. He always did hug her a little too long.” Those assumptions may be right or wrong, but it’s part of the church’s way of dealing with the betrayal.

Unfortunately, most church members don’t ever see what goes on behind the scenes with their pastor. A pastor is placed in charge of a church to care for his flock, to preach the Word, visit the sick and new members. However, those are not the only duties he has to deal with.

His duties also include dealing with conflict between members, conflict at church business meetings, listening to complaints (suggestions) from people who know how to do things better, deacon’s meetings, staff meetings, funerals, weddings, and other tasks that few hear about on Sunday.

It’s almost like going to a stage play. When you go to church, you sit in a pew and watch a playperformance. You expect the choir to sing, a special music, and the pastor to preach. He looks nice in his suit or khakis (depending on his dress style) and everything looks great to the congregation and visitors.

At a stage play, though, there are a ton of things going on behind the scenes. There are stage hands rearranging for the next act, people giving cues to the actors, people working lights, the director barking directions, costume changes, and a myriad of other tasks.

It’s the same at church. Parishioners see a polished product on stage, but there is a lot that goes into a Sunday service – especially in the life of a pastor. A week filled with prayer, visitation, Bible study, phone calls, dealing with conflict, etc.

Back to the original question: “Our pastor committed adultery! How did this happen?”

It didn’t happen overnight. The process that led to his fall had been building for years. Let me give you an example. About every time I talk to a fallen pastor, I ask him the following questions. “Were you having severe conflict in your church for a while?” “Were you having severe marriage issues?” “Had you had a tragedy in your life in the past two years?” “Did you feel that you were put up on an unrealistic pedestal?” “Did you feel isolated?”

Every time, the person answers yes to almost every question. These things have been going on for years. Like a pastor friend of mine said recently who pastors a very large church, “Ministry Fallen_Pastor_Cover_1200wis tough. It’s tough on me and it’s tough on my family.”

How does it happen? Because the pastor allows himself to become isolated. Because he isn’t getting help from his church. Because the ministry has a terrible effect on many marriages. Again, it’s all part of a pattern that leads up to almost every fall. In my book, I have stories of many men who fall and the stories are remarkably similar.

The pastor doesn’t wake up one day and say, “This stinks, I think I want out. I’m going to have an affair.”

But it’s close. What I’ve discovered is that after years of depression, anxiety and growing tired of all the conflict, the pastor just wants to be out of the ministry. Some pastors turn to alcohol, gambling, laziness, embezzling, or pornography. These men are most often forgiven and allowed back into the ministry at some point. These men don’t really want out of the ministry, I think.

Like most ministers, they pour their hearts out to people every day and are looking (wrongly) to something to fulfill them. They selfishly look to something to make them happy, to make them happy. I think that set of men are looking for help, but think if they get caught they can get the help they need.

The minister who commits adultery is a man who just wants out. He’s done. He’s tired of it all. Everything has come crashing down and he has had enough. Enough of his disturbed marriage, enough of the negative conflicts, enough of being isolated, enough of it all. He’s not looking for someone, but he inadvertently finds someone who meets the needs he hasn’t been getting.

This process takes years.

What’s my point? That intervention right before a man commits adultery is almost useless. It’scliff like trying to grab for a man right after he’s jumped off the cliff.

Would you like to help your pastor? Get involved in his life. Make sure he’s being mentored. Make sure he and his wife have time set alone just for them. Send them on retreats for spiritual renewal. Make sure church leadership responds correctly to conflict and doesn’t place the load on the pastor.

Approach him honestly about these things. He may not open up to you, but there are people in the church he will open up to. Don’t let him become one of the 1,500 pastors a month who leave the ministry due to church conflict, moral failure, or burnout.

Scripture tells us to all be on guard. Let us all rally around our shepherd before it’s too late.

_____________________

Ray Carroll is the author of “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World.” If you are a fallen pastor, a pastor in trouble, a church whose pastor has fallen, or need someone to talk to your group about preventing ministry failure, please feel free to contact Ray here. All messages will be kept confidential.

Where Can A Fallen Pastor Fit In?

Posted by fallenpastor | Posted in brokenness, church, church members, churches, humillity, ministry, pastoring, pastors, preachers, preaching, understanding | Posted on 15-01-2014

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When a pastor falls and ends up out of the ministry – whether permanently or temporarily – he Online Info About Fallen Pastorsfinds himself lost. A lot of things are going on in his life – counseling, restoration, working with his wife, working through his sin, trying to make sense of it all, possible court proceedings, etc.

One of the most significant things that the fallen pastor now realizes is that he is without a ministry position for the first time in many years. For a time, this may be a blessing. A lot of fallen pastors at the time of their sin were tired of ministry and were at a crisis point to begin with. They had been at odds with staff, hounded by phone calls, the blessing of ministry had become a job, and it was less than enjoyable.

However, as time rolls on, pastors tend to realize that while they don’t miss the pain of the job, they do miss authentic ministry, preaching, and pastoring. Deep down, they want to be part of ministry again, but they’re not sure if they’re ready or honestly, if anyone will have them.

Where can a fallen pastor fit in?

Most fallen pastors go through this thought process: “I want to be part of a church. But what do I tell a church that I’m visiting? Do I just walk up to a pastor and tell them what I did? Do I wait to tell them before I join? Do I tell them after? Should I just keep it to myself?

oldchurchIt’s a serious thing, especially when you’re just starting the path to restoration and you want to do things right.

Here’s what I’ll say about what to tell churches about your past - they have a right to know the basics. I don’t suggest running into every church and telling them everything the first day you walk in the door. In fact, take time to visit a few places. Enjoy sitting in the back row for a while being anonymous. Like a place? Stick around. Listen to what people are saying. Get a feel for it.

Heck, worship for once.

And if you enjoy it and want to stay, approach the minister. But listen. And I’m serious about this – don’t expect a favorable response. If you tell him what you did, that you committed adultery and are looking for somewhere to rest and restore, you just might get a boot in your rear end. I’ve seen it happen more often than not.

Guess what? If it happens, it’s not about you. It’s about him. And that’s fine. If he can’t be loving and Christ like enough to take time to listen, love and help, you don’t need to waste your time there.

If you do find a place, here’s my advice – don’t rush too fast to accept any kind of ministry, teaching or leadership position. Remember where you just came from? A fallen ministry. Guess what will happen if you don’t get help and find out what went wrong in the first place? It’ll happen again.

You say, “No, I’ve got it this time. I’ve been humbled.” I’ve said it before and will say it again – humbling circumstances do not necessarily humble us.

After you fall, it takes time to be restored to Christ. Well meaning church people will hear about you, love you and will rush you into positions too quickly. And you will want to do them because your pastoral nature won’t want to say no. But guess what? It’s okay to say no.

On the other side of that coin you might find that there are churches that won’t ask you to do anything. It’s not because they don’t like you or trust you – it’s because they just don’t know what to do with you. They’ve never had a healing minister in their presence and they really don’t know how to proceed. Don’t take that personally.

So what can you do?

In fact, I’ve found something that is very, very rewarding that you can do as a freshly fallen pastor that keep you on the path of restoration and keeps you out of leadership roles for the time being. And it’s something that you already know how to do.

Be a mentor and friend to your new pastor. person pew

Remember all those times as a pastor you thought things like, “I sure wish people appreciated me more,” or “I don’t get enough compliments or good critiques on my sermons,” or “I wish I had someone to listen to my problems and take me out to lunch,” or “I really don’t have anyone who understands what it’s like to be a minister that I can talk to.” Remember all that? Now you can be that for someone else.

You can be that joy and help in someone else’s life. You’ll be surprised at how amazing it can be. Don’t be overwhelming. Start small. Don’t talk too much. Just drop by on occasion. Gain his trust. Pray with him. Offer to do things for him. Don’t ask for anything in return.

Be the person for him that you wish you had when you were pastoring. In time, you’ll see two lives transformed and you’ll be doing ministry for someone.

* I do want to recommend to pastors who have left ministry an excellent resource. PIR Ministries has helped train churches across the country to help and minister to “exited” pastors. Please visit their website for more information and to see if they have a trained church near you or to train your church to help an “exited” pastor.

__________________

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.

 

The Pastor’s Crisis Moment

Posted by fallenpastor | Posted in adultery, affair, church, church leadership, church members, churches, fallenness, pastoral care, pastoring, pastors, preachers, reconciliation | Posted on 13-01-2014

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I talk to a lot of fallen pastors and pastors who are in danger of falling. The pastors who are in Reconciling With A Fallen Pastor, Part 2: Stages Of The Falldanger of falling are usually already talking to another woman and they typically describe their relationship with the woman who is not their wife like this: “We haven’t ‘crossed the line physically,’ but we are having an emotional affair.”

If a pastor is having an ‘emotional affair,’ the damage is still done. Is it as bad as adultery as far as trying to come back from it? No, but it’s still a very serious thing.

What I want to discuss today is the crisis moment that I’ve observed in fallen pastors and in those who are about to fall. Here is my definition of the crisis moment: That moment where a man comes to his senses, even for a split second, and begins to understand the situation he is in. For the past few weeks or months, he has been engaged in an affair of some type and has been living in a fantasy world of some sort. At some point, he wakes up to what he is doing and realizes he has a wife, children, a church and a God he is responsible to. He also realizes that by continuing on, he can lose everything.

Let me back up for a moment before I go any further and talk about what has happened before this. Not many people understand what drives a pastor to adultery. I covered it in my book rather extensively and have written about it in this blog many times including here, here, and here.

For a quick review, pastors don’t just wake up one day and decide to commit adultery. Over time, they are weakened by conflict, isolation, poor marriages, and other factors. Are they factors that can be prevented? Absolutely. Is the pastor responsible for his sin? You bet.

Back to the crisis moment.

alonepastorWhen a pastor comes to the crisis moment, there are few people, if any he can talk to. For instance, suppose a pastor has been cheating on his wife or been engaged in an emotional relationship with another woman but hasn’t been caught yet. Believe it or not, for months, he has been justifying his actions. But the guilt does catch up to him.

Who is he going to talk to? You’ll say, “Well, he should confess his sin immediately.” Yeah, that’s right. But like the rest of us, he won’t. When we all look at the deep, dark sin in our own lives, we all know that we don’t always confess our own sins to God or to those we’ve harmed.

So the pastor doesn’t go to anyone. Or, he’ll go to a friend and talk in circles or in generalities about a problem he’s struggling with but will never come right out and say what it is.

Some guys will just run. They start putting out resumes and will relocate to a different church in another state to get away from their sin. I’ve seen this happen before. And it doesn’t end well either. Because guess what? Sin follows you. And eventually, someone at your last church finds out and they will end up calling your new church and it’s all over.

Others in the crisis moment will try to neatly hide the scandal. They’ll keep on doing what they’re doing, feeling that if the church had been taking better care of them or if their wife had been paying more attention to them, they wouldn’t be in this mess to begin with. That doesn’t usually end well either.

I can tell you this about the crisis moment – it comes fast, hard, and heavy. It’s overwhelming, like a huge panic attack. For some guys, it comes after they get caught.

Some pastors, after their sin is exposed, are in a unique position. And a lot of you are about to affairget angry about this. But this is exactly what happens. If you read this blog and want to help fallen pastors, this is the kind of thing you want to know.

When the pastor gets caught, he still has feelings for the woman he had an affair with. And he will for a long time. If his church approaches him about restoration or counseling with his wife, he may reject it immediately. Why? Because he’s a man who is in love with another woman.

You might say, “Hold on there fallen pastor dude. What are you talking about?

I’ll tell you exactly what I’m talking about. I always ask fallen pastors what it is that the woman they had an affair with did for them. Well before the pastor and the woman he had an affair with ever decided to cross the line into adultery, something happened. And the majority of the time, you know what it was?

It was that the other woman took time to listen to him. She appreciated him for who he was. She just accepted him for being a man. I’ll also throw this in there – the woman that fallen pastors usually meet up with is usually going through a crisis of their own. Their needs aren’t being met and the pastor is able to meet her emotional needs as well.

Now, does that make adultery right? Nope. I’m just reporting what I hear and see on a weekly basis.

That’s why some men when they reach that crisis point after they’ve been caught, and after they’ve been askefallingd to reconcile with their wives will say, “No.” Why do they say no? They look at this world they’ve lived in for the past few months with another woman. A world where they can come and go as they please. They have no responsibility, no bills to pay, just pure bliss.

And they believe it will endure. Guess what? It doesn’t always stay that way. 2% of marriages that are built on adultery will succeed. You get that? It may start as a fabulous retreat from life, but eventually, it will end up being a marriage.

So what should a pastor do at the crisis point? It depends on which side he’s on. If he’s teetering on the brink and has had an emotional affair and hasn’t been caught, it might be wise to defuse that by confessing to his spouse. What if it has become physical? It’s time to talk to church leadership – carefully.

I could write a whole other book on how churches should treat a pastor who has committed a large sin. How they should love him and get him help, treat him like a member of the body of Christ and see that he is restored to fellowship.

Pastors, if you’re out there, you might have reached your crisis moment. And if you think you don’t have anyone to talk to, think again. I’m here. And my contact info is below. I’ve been able to network with all kinds of people who can help. Just talking helps sometimes. I won’t judge you or call you names or think you’re the worst person in the world. In fact, I love you because Christ loves me.

People of God, if your pastor reaches a crisis moment, know that he needs your help. He doesn’t need gossip or meanness or anger. He needs support and help. If you can’t give him proper help, find someone who can.

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.

“Our Pastor Committed Adultery 20 Years Ago”

Posted by fallenpastor | Posted in adultery, affair, Christ, church, church leadership, church members, compassion, counseling, deacons, fallenness, forgiveness, humillity, pastoring, pastors, preachers, repentance, restoration | Posted on 13-11-2013

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oldpulpitOver the past five months, I’ve gotten at least four emails that were almost identical, asking the same question. They all came from church leaders and asked this question: “What do we do when we just found out our current pastor committed adultery over 20 years ago? The deacons at that time knew of it, told him not to worry about it, he repented to them, and they went on, business as usual? But now, people are finding out and it is hurting the ministry of our church and the credibility of our pastor.”

In most cases, the pastor’s infidelity led to a long term relationship, sometimes with children. The current leaders are right to ask the question. And the question isn’t so simple. In fact, there are a lot of things to consider.

It’s not too surprising. In my book, I share the statistic that 1 in 3 pastors has crossed the line with another woman sexually, but is still serving as a pastor.

First, if it was properly handled the first time, is it wrong to bring it up again? Won’t it be doing more damage to the pastor, his family and the church? Second, if it wasn’t handled properly, is there a sort of “statute of limitations” on this type of thing? If it happened decades ago and hasn’t been noticed until now, why does it matter? Third, most of these men are late in their lives. If they go out on a scandal now, it will probably ruin their ministry career.

Needless to say, the first time I got one of these emails, it had to be handled prayerfully and with great discernment. I asked for advice and help from some friends and I think there is a solid answer to the situation, so I’m going to try and put it in words as best I can here for people to reference when they find themselves in a similar situation.

Let’s start with something I’ve always said about pastoral infidelity – or, for that matter, any sexual sin. It leads to messy, awful circumstances. Scripture teaches that very clearly. When we sin, there will be consequences. Let me be clear – there is forgiveness available for all sinners. Christ wipes the slate clean for us when we are repentant. However, the consequences of our sin may last a lifetime.

Whether we sinned five minutes ago or thirty years ago, we may have to deal with circumstances that stem from our sin. consequeAnd guess what? That’s expected. That’s part of humility and repentance. A person who is truly humbled by the grace of God and the consequences of their actions will live a life that proves that humility over and over again.

I meet people frequently who aren’t familiar with my story – how I was a Baptist minister and committed adultery – and some will say, “How could you?” My response, if I am humbled by the grace of God, will be, “I sinned, but I have been forgiven. God has been more than gracious to me.

Let’s turn to the charge of whether a pastor who confessed his sin only to his church leadership should have to bring it back up twenty years later. When I thought about this the first time, something bothered me about it. The church leadership either caught the pastor in sin, was informed about it, or the pastor told them. The leadership then decided for whatever reason, to not tell the rest of the church and keep the pastor in his place of ministry.

I believe this to be a huge mistake. And I believe it to be a mistake Scripturally. When a church hires a minister or has one given to them as their leader, they place their trust in him. They look to him as a man qualified per 1 Timothy 3. Are leaders perfect? Absolutely not. I’ve said more than once that leaders are held to unrealistic expectations. However, a pastor has a bond between himself and the leaders as well as the membership. When he violates any sort of trust with them, the membership needs to be made aware.

Let me be careful here – the response to an adulterous pastor is not to throw him into the street or ignore his sin. He should be removed from the pulpit. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a hundred times – the pastor needs to be restored to Christ per the standard of Galatians 6:1. He needs counseling, support, and Christian restoration. What he does not need is to be thrust back into a leadership role while the church is unaware that he has committed a major sin.

restoreFurther, in all of the men I have seen who have returned to the pulpit after sexual sin, it takes a very long time to be restored. First, they must be restored to Christ. They have to be restored to their wives. Then and only then can they even begin to think about the ministry. This process doesn’t take a few weeks – it takes months, or even years.

Next, is there a “statute of limitations” on this kind of thing? If it happened twenty years ago and no one noticed, should the church just keep ignoring it? Listen, if you as a church leader know and a couple of other people in the church know, chances are, a lot of people know. In fact, there are people in the community who have probably known for a long time as well. The sin that was committed a long time ago may have been a barrier to many people who might have been otherwise coming to your church. Sin does nothing but fester and grow. Like a disease, it has to be brought to light so it can be dealt with – lovingly and with discernment.

So how in the world is anyone supposed to handle this? I’m not going to tell you that there’s an easy answer. There’s not. A few decades have built up between the pastor’s sin and he’s had time to push it down and explain it away. And in that time, God has blessed the church in spite of his sin – assuming he is unrepentant.

Here’s a good way to tell if your pastor is repentant or unrepentant. Take a couple of the wisest, most discerning leaders to  meet with the pastor who know the facts. Approach him in a gentle manner with what you know. You will typically get one of two responses. The response will tell you whether he is  a man who is repentant over his sin or not. Here are the menmeettwo responses:

Response 1: “Are you kidding? We dealt with this twenty years ago. It was taken care of  and that’s all there is to say about it. All you’re doing is bringing up gossip and trying to run me down.

Response 2: “You’re right, you’re missing some of the details and I will tell you anything you want to know. At the time, we didn’t know how to handle it and when I talked to the leadership, that’s what we decided. Maybe it wasn’t the best thing to do. But I feel like I repented. But I want to do what’s right for the church and move forward. I’m open to working with you and whatever is best for my family, this church, and our ministry.”

Obviously, it won’t sound exactly like that. But you get the point. The pastor will have either lived a life of repentance from the point of his sin, or he will have spent his entire life justifying it.

Friends, it’s messy. It’s awful. And it’s because of sin. If you’re in this situation as a church leader, I’m sorry. But know that handling it with compassion, love, grace and kindness will get you a long way. Using accusative, bitter, angry language will simply shut the door. Threatening to leave or split the church will do nothing.

Offer him help, guidance and counseling. Know that I am here to help and I have other people I can put you in touch with.

guilty2If you’re a pastor who is serving who is in this situation, I urge you to do what is right. Stop living under the shadow of guilt and confess your sin to your church. To the people who trust you. As pastors, when we sin, we owe it to them to tell them that we have violated their trust. It won’t be easy, but it is the right thing to do.

Above all else, Christians, don’t let a situation like this ruin your church. Your community is watching to see how you will treat a sinner in your midst. Church members are watching to see how you will react. Always remember that all of us are sinners, saved by grace, who need correction and restoration. When times get difficult, don’t give up.

I’ll close by giving the advice I gave one church. I said to them, “One day, you’ll have to share with your children what happened to the pastor they knew when they were young. After you tell them, make sure you’re able to say, ‘Even though he couldn’t be our pastor anymore, we still loved him and treated him as Christ would have.'”

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Ray Carroll is author of “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World.” If you are a fallen pastor, a pastor in trouble, a church whose pastor has fallen, or need someone to talk to your group about preventing ministry failure, please feel free to contact Ray here. All messages will be kept confidential.

Hershael York, Pt. 2: Pornography, Ministry Failure & Prevention

Posted by fallenpastor | Posted in adultery, brokenness, church, circumstance, compassion, fallenness, forgiveness, Hershael York, jesus, ministry, pastoring, pornography, preachers, repentance, restoration, seminary | Posted on 25-10-2013

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This is part two of my interview with Dr. Hershael York concerning fallen pastors, grace, ministry failure, and all kinds of things. If you missed part one, please go there first. If not, here is part two of our conversation. If you are looking for even more Dr. York quotables, he helped me out when I wrote my book.

Dr. York and I had been talking about ministry failure, but then the conversation began to turn to the heart of what makes pastors turn and whether anything can be done about it.

yorkWhat can churches and pastors do to prevent ministry failure?

I told Dr. York that since my fall and the inception of my ministry with fallenpastor.com, I’ve had a lot of Christians become very uncomfortable with my presence. There are times I’ll introduce myself to a pastor, tell him about my ministry then my former sin and he’ll take two steps back like he’s going to “catch adultery.”

Dr. York: “The truth is they’re merely uncomfortable talking to people whose sin has been discovered. That’s your only real difference. There’s not one of us that if you took the darkest secret of our life and past, we would be absolutely humiliated, drummed out of the corps, and be considered useless.”

I asked what he thought we could do about helping churches when their pastors fall and told him it was something that has been running through my mind.

Dr. York: “If a guy is repentant and recognizes that he’s sinned against God and has been broken in his sin, then a church has an incredible opportunity to glorify God. God is glorified by repentance and restoration. I don’t think churches know how to do that well.

“We no longer ask students or missionary candidates, ‘Have you  looked at pornography?’ We now ask, ‘When was the last time you looked at pornography?’”

“Our Baptist polity works against us in this way: We don’t have bishops who have any authority to step in. Few of our Directors of Missions are equipped to do this and a lot of churches are distant from their association to begin with. But it’s not like the DOM is the go-to guy to step in and say, ‘here’s what you do.’ Because we’re all autonomous, there’s no central authority.”

The real problem behind pastor failure

The conversation took a turn as we started discussing one of the biggest problems for pastors and men in general. The topic came up as he was talking about an idea he was tossing around to embolden and encourage ministers as a ministry at his own church.

Dr. York: “I work at Southern (Seminary) and am associated with the International Mission Board and I can tell you this; We no longer ask students or missionary candidates, ‘Have you looked at pornography?’ We now ask, ‘When was the last time you looked at pornography?’ That’s what we ask.”

chnprnHe said he’s aware of more and more marriage issues arising between seminary students and their wives because of pornography. The problem of pornography has become a serious issue not just for the men of the church, but for the leaders. He continued:

“Our world says, ‘Whatever your tendency, indulge it.’ So if you’re married and you don’t want to have sex, do it. And if you’re unmarried and you want to have sex, do it. Even guys who have really consecrated themselves to the Lord are having problems. And if from the time you were 12 or 13 years old and you’ve seen everything the Internet has to offer, if you give into it as a married person, you’re going to have serious problems.

“It goes from titillation to what I would call preoccupation with beauty to what I would call perversion. You’ve got to go beyond beauty to get that endorphin rush. There are a thousand perversions out there and people feel they have to ramp it up to get a greater thrill. Once you’re dissatisfied, you lose contentment with what God has given you, and that’s what’s really at the heart of all this sin. Here’s the sphere of what God has given me, and the Word says it enough, but I say, ‘God’s been unfair to me and he hasn’t given me what I want so I’m going to reach outside this sphere and take what I want, whether it’s pornography, another woman, another man,’ and whatever it is, you’ve gone beyond God’s provision for you, you’re not contenting yourself.”

Preventing discontentment in ministry – Dr. York’s secret to success

Dr. York shared with me what has worked for him in ministry. He acknowledged that there were plenty of times that he could have sinned, but God has protected him. But there was a specific moment in his life that he can point to that shines out above all the rest that led to his success in ministry:

“There’s a thing that my wife Tanya and I have started saying that’s not very popular for us to say. Tanya and I agree that the most spiritually significant decision we’ve ever made as a couple was the decision that she would not work outside our home. Now, we don’t lay that down as a rule, I’m not saying that’s God’s will for everybody, I’m not saying you’re in sin or wrong if both of you work.

“But here is what I will say with complete confidence and comfort: It’s harder to stay married and it’s successharder to stay in love when both of you have completely separate spheres of life. She develops her friends and you develop yours. She has her work goals and aspirations and you have yours.

“One of the keys to my success as a pastor in all the churches I have served is Tanya. She just adds so much. She’s a gel. She can just smooth everything over. She senses problems before they occur. Tanya could be making $200,000 a year in real estate if she wanted, there’s no doubt in my mind. And by the way, I was making only $11,000 a year and living in a parsonage when we made this decision. So it’s not like we decided this after I was ‘Dr. York,’ and can pull in the money. We didn’t even struggle with the decision. We both made it.

“We look back at it now, 32 years in and say, ‘That was the critical decision. That made the difference.’ What woman in my church could I start getting close to that she wouldn’t know about it? She’s there, she sees it. She’s not worn out from her career to not notice and conversely she’s truly in my ministry, we have the same friends, a shared ministry purpose. We are always like minded.”

Preventing ministry failure through keeping focus

One thing that you can learn from Dr. York is that he has focus. He loves Jesus. He loves his wife. He loves his family. He loves his church. He’s not a man who will talk your ear off about meaningless things, but he will talk to you about things that are always wise and heartfelt.  And it is this type of thing that has kept him focused on what is right and away from ministry failure:

“I had a man who talked to me once who had fallen. Years before he had a woman come to him in counseling and had said, ‘My husband doesn’t pay attention to me,’ and he said, ‘I know exactly how you feel.’ That was the beginning of the end. He lost it all. The guy also said this to me, ‘Women in my church were always coming on to me.’ And I told him, ‘I find that hard to believe. It’s never happened to me.’

fallen“I believe we send out signals. You come into my office and I’ve got pictures of Tanya in my office up and you can’t be around me for five minutes without me talking about her or Jesus. No woman in any church I’ve served has ever said anything inappropriate to me. I just have to believe that it’s not that you’re the hunkiest guy in the world that makes women want to give themselves over to you, but you’re sending out signals. The minute you said to her, ‘I know how you feel’ you’re making it about you.

“I want to walk in such a way that even if someone falsely accused me, people in my church would say, ‘No, there’s no way.’

 “But there’s a false security guys want to feed, ‘Do I still have it.’ That’s another thing I practice and teach – embrace whatever stage of life you’re in.  I think it would look ridiculous for me as a 53 year old man to attempt to look or act like I’m 33. Paul said I have learned at whatsoever state I am I am there with to be content. And if you really believe Jesus is enough, it just gets rid of that stuff.  That’s where I want to live. I really want to live in the absolute belief that Jesus is enough for me, whatever stage of life.”

Finishing up

Many thanks to Dr. York once again for talking to me and imparting wisdom to me. For being a friend when many won’t even consider talking to me. But more importantly, for believing in grace and what it is truly capable of.

“I cannot need grace as desperately as I do and then refuse it to others.” – Dr. Hershael York

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Dr. Hershael York is the Victor and Louise Professor of Christian Preaching and Associate Dean of Ministry and Proclamation at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Senior Pastor of Buck Run Baptist Church in Frankfort, Kentucky. Tanya, his wife of twenty-seven years, is a popular speaker at women’s conferences, and they have two married sons, Michael, 25, and Seth, 23. For a full biography, please click here.

Ray Carroll is author of “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World.” If you are a fallen pastor, a pastor in trouble, a church whose pastor has fallen, or need someone to talk to your group about preventing ministry failure, please feel free to contact Ray here. All messages will be kept confidential.

Strange Fire?: There Is A Larger Elephant In The Room

Posted by fallenpastor | Posted in adultery, church, church leadership, church members, churches, conference, current events, deacons, denominations, fallenness, forgiveness, grace, macarthur, ministry, pastoring, pastors, preachers, restoration, sin, temptation | Posted on 23-10-2013

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Seminary, Being Judgmental, Self-Righteousness, and Other Thoughts, Part 2Last week, well known pastor, author and evangelical John MacArthur hosted a conference at his church called “Strange Fire.” The three day event was based upon the idea that the “Charismatic movement is leading people astray and dishonors the Holy Spirit.” At stake is whether certain gifts of the Holy Spirit are still in operation. Popular blogger Tim Challies live blogged the event and did a good job of covering it. For those interested, he had a good post covering the issues.

Like any theological topic, things got heated during the event. People are still discussing it. Why? Because there are people on both sides of the aisle who believe they are right. On one side are those who tend to come from charismatic or Assembly of God backgrounds and the other come from Baptist or other traditional backgrounds.

Now, before you comment, I know there are those who are in denominations who take the other side. Got it. That’s not why I’m writing today.

MacArthur has been writing on this issue for years. I remember reading his book, “Charismatic Chaos” when I was just 14 or 15. The debate has been going on for a long time. One writer said that MacArthur, in his arguments at the conference, was accusing half a billion Christians of blasphemy.

So, this disagreement between denominations and Christians is nothing new.

What concerns me is that there is a huge epidemic occurring that to the best of my knowledge, no major church, mega-church pastor, or denomination (or denominations) has set up a conference for. It is a scourge that is bringing our church leadership down at what appear to be record rates.

I speak of course, of pastors who are leaving the ministry due to moral failure.

There is no Christian denomination that is untouched. I am not picking on any denomination by any means. I plan to getdepressedpastor to them all.

Let me tell you this – my inbox has been filled with questions from charismatic pastors and churches asking, “What is happening to our pastors and leaders?A few months ago, several charismatic pastors in the state of Florida fell. More recently came the tragedy of Ron Carpenter’s wife.

And if you want to look at Baptists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Lutherans or Fundamentalists, feel free. They have had their own share of fallen pastors in the past few years.

It is a very serious issue that no one wants to talk about or address at the local, associational, state or denominational level. Think it’s not a problem? In my book, “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World,” I have a ton of stats that show what lead to a pastor failing morally in the ministry. In the Kindle edition, there are some stats that users highlight that stand out the most to them. Here they are:

  • According to the following statistics, one in three active pastors admits to having an affair, 70% of pastors deal with depression, seven out of ten report having no close friends.
  • 77% of pastors reported they did not have a good marriage.
  • 1,500 pastors a month are leaving due to burnout, conflict or moral failure.

There are a lot more than just that. Meanwhile, the best we seem to be able to do as evangelicals is respond to the situation. Do a Google search and you’ll find such articles like, “Should Fallen Pastors Be Restored?” by John MacArthur (his answer is “not to the ministry”); or an article that interviews evangelicals on whether pastors should be restored after a fall.

fallen pastorFriends, asking whether a pastor should return to the pulpit is a question. But it’s just one. And it’s not even the most important one. I’ve only lightly addressed it on this blog because there are about 100 questions to be asked before you get to that one. Addressing the failure is like creating awareness the disease after it has happened instead of trying to prevent it in the lives of thousands.

It’s easy to get pastors to attend a conference around things that are popular to talk about and that people will defend tooth and nail. But why is it so difficult to gather up leaders who will sponsor a conference/conferences over a topic that is removing ministers from our midst on a daily basis? To organize a conference so that we might learn (or remind ourselves) that ministry failure is absolutely preventable?

What makes matters worse is we are facing a generation of church leaders, members, deacons, elders, associations and denominations who are not equipped with how to handle a fallen pastor. Most don’t know what to do with a fallen pastor. He either gets kicked to the curb or his sin is ignored and he is immediately placed back into the pulpit. Both are wrong responses, but come because people just aren’t prepared. To MacArthur’s credit in his article mentioned above, he said, “The church should do everything possible to minister to those who have sinned and repented.”

I fully agree. On top of that, after four years, I have learned there are at least four distinct causes that lead a pastor to a fall. He is ultimately responsible for his own sin. But if he is not careful, there are factors that will weaken him to a point of no return.

So what holds us back from forming such a conference where we can invite pastors, church leaders, church members, elders, deacons, and anyone who wants to learn how to prevent ministry failure? I believe there are several reasons.

crossing-the-lineFirst, I believe many pastors won’t admit they are capable of such sin. Sure, they may say, “It could happen to anyone, even me. I’m a sinner like anyone else.” But do pastors really believe that? I hope they do. Because it happens all too frequently.

One statistic I share in my book is that at least a third of evangelical pastors (still serving) have had a relationship with a member of the opposite sex where they felt they crossed the line. Heck, this website quotes a study that says 54% of pastors admit to looking at pornography in the past year. If one is not aware of the signs and symptoms and does not take the steps to prevent it, they will be susceptible to a fall.

Secondly, such a conference might not be appealing is because we don’t want to think our pastor or a member of our church leadership could be capable of such a think. We see our church leader on that platform every Sunday preaching or performing the act of worship. We look up to them. We might even hear of another minister falling and think, “Well, my pastor would never do that.” That statement has been said by many unsuspecting church members whose pastor eventually fell.

We don’t want to think our leaders will fall. But it happened to many of our heroes in Scripture. But thanks be to God that He is gracious and loving. But we need to be aware of how we can help our leadership.

Third, pastors place a great amount of pressure upon themselves. They hold onto the need to keep up appearances. I know this because I was a pastor that did that. And I have talked to fallen pastors who did the same. And I have pastor friends now who tell me they do it.

When you create such pressure for yourself and you get invited to a conference on “How to Avoid Ministry Failure” you might feel like it would make you feel weak. Like you can’t handle the job on your own. Like you can’t just tough it out. But that’s not reasonable. Everyone, especially pastors, need support and encouragement.

In closing, I think it is interesting how different denominations handle fallen pastors. In my book and in my counseling, I have spoken with manyGalatians6_1-2 fallen pastors from several denominations. Those who tended to come from a charismatic background were often given counseling or given a chance to return to the pulpit. Those who came from Baptist backgrounds or other evangelical churches were often fired and kicked out with no offer of counseling.

I think the model for restoration lies somewhere in between. Galatians 6:1 should be our guide. If one of us is caught in a sin, the church should seek to restore. Restore to what? Restore such a one to Christ. That process takes a long time. But as I’ve counseled fallen pastors, I’ve found it is worth it.

I pray and hope that one day, we will understand the need to have meetings, conferences, talks, messages at our churches that are designed to let people and pastors know that ministry failure is a huge deal. It is tearing churches apart. We cannot simply continue to ignore it. It must be dealt with through prevention. The church leadership must work together lovingly with the pastor and the pastor must recognize his own limitations.

I pray that soon we will stop ignoring this horrific sin and kill it before it enters into the minds of any more church leaders.

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Are you a fallen pastor, burned out pastor, pastor on the brink or a church that has gone through a tough time? You might start out by reading, “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World.” (Available in paperback or on Amazon Kindle). There are a lot of things in there that will help pastors prevent ministry failure and a lot of things to help pastors after they fall. There are also helps for churches whose pastors have fallen.

Need more help than that? Feel free to contact the author of this blog and the book, Ray Carroll. He’d love to talk to you. Anything you say will be kept confidential.

 

For All The Sinning Pastors Out There

Posted by fallenpastor | Posted in adultery, help, pastoring, pastors, preachers, repentance, restoration, sin | Posted on 21-10-2013

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The title of this post is a little misleading. All pastors are sinners. I’m writing this for every pastor, but I’m not. Everysinn pastor should read this, but I’ve got a serious message for a specific group of pastors.

I get at least two emails a week from people whose lives have been changed because a pastor has committed adultery. Sometimes it’s the pastor, sometimes it’s his wife, sometimes a staff member, sometimes it’s a member of the congregation.

There’s one group I’ve never gotten an email from. Not one pastor has ever emailed me and said, “I’m in the middle of adultery. I’m really enjoying it. I’m successfully keeping it from my wife. It’s meeting my needs right now and I’m pretty sure I’m not going to get caught. Please let me know what I should do.

I do, however, get plenty of emails from men like that after they do get caught. I was one of them. After I got caught, I thought I was alone in the world. After being thrown to the curb like garbage, isolated, and the object of scorn (all well deserved, mind you), I wanted help. But not while I was hiding it. (For information on the people who are hurt, the stages of the fallen pastor, and how to help, check out my book, “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World.“)

Why not? Because I was just fine, thank you. I was managing my sin without any help from anyone and I didn’t want an escape. Were there moments where my mind reflected to Scripture and my conscience rattled me? Sure, but I plunged decisionall that down with the certainty that I was doing the right thing. Life had dealt me a raw hand, I thought. I had been through some serious circumstances, conflict, pain and awful times. It was time for me to get what I needed  for a change.

Pastors, I know you’re out there. You’re either in the midst of sin or tottering on the brink of it. You may be texting someone who isn’t your spouse in hopes that it may turn into something else. Deep down you may be thinking, “It’s harmless. All I do is give, give, and give to people. All I want is something for me right now. I’ve finally found someone who understands me.”

You’re not going to email me probably or anyone else for help, so let me give you some advice. Step back, take a deep breath, and get a second opinion. You won’t like it. If you’re getting an objective opinion, at least listen. Be honest. Tell them the core of your sin. Just listen, don’t argue.

But I’ll tell you this – if you’re far out there, you’re in need of intervention. Worst part, if you’re out there, you’re probably very defensive and full of justification. Humility at this point will go a long way. But you have to be willing to take a first roadstep.

If you do reach out to me, I’ll always listen. I won’t excuse sin, but I won’t judge you as a person. I will walk with you even if no one else does.

For the rest of you pastors out there? Maybe you’re doing great. Holiness abounds. Beware, though. Circumstances piled upon conflict, upon anxiety, upon unrealistic expectations can turn your heart away from God.

I urge all of you to pray for those who have fallen into sin. Reach out to them the best you know how. One day, it could be you.

________________________________

Are you a fallen pastor, burned out pastor, pastor on the brink or a church that has gone through a tough time? You might start out by reading, “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World.” There are a lot of things in there that will help pastors prevent ministry failure and a lot of things to help pastors after they fall. There are also helps for churches whose pastors have fallen.

Need more help than that? Feel free to contact the author of this blog and the book, Ray Carroll. He’d love to talk to you. Anything you say will be kept confidential.