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Seminary, Being Judgmental, Self-Righteousness, and Other Thoughts, Pa

My new friend from the Work In Progress blog who comments here frequently asked me an honest question recently, which reminded me of something I’ve been wanting to blog about for a while. I think I’ve mentioned before that I was somewhat judgmental as a pastor before my fall. I also discovered...

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Your Church Already Has A Plan To Deal With Adultery

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, bitterness, burnout, church, church leadership, church members, churches, fallenness, forgiveness, hurt, pastors, prevention, reconciliation, repentance, restoration, sin | Posted on 16-04-2014

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planYou may not be aware of this, but your church has a plan in place to deal with a church crisis. It does. On this site, I primarily deal with the crisis of a pastor leaving when he’s caught in adultery, so I’m going to deal with that.

Churches today are finding themselves in this situation more and more. The statistic gets thrown around that 1,500 pastors a month leave the ministry due to conflict, burnout or moral failure. Think that statistic is shocking? I have a lot more on this blog and more in my book.

But your church leadership has a plan ready to go whether they realize it or not.

Think of it like this. This morning, you woke up, got out of bed and brushed your teeth (I hope). You did a bunch of other things in order to face the world. You ate breakfast (maybe), got dressed, took a shower, put on some clothes, and got in your vehicle.

Somewhere in your day, you had to adapt to something. Let’s say unexpectedly, on your way to work, a squirrel ran out in front of your car. (What is it with me and squirrels on this blog?) You had a split second decision to make. Do you swerve and possibly hit that mailbox? Do you slam on the brakes and spill your coffee? Do you keep going as the squirrel darts frantically in several directions as it decides which way to go?

You see, suddenly, you realize you have a plan in place, embedded in your mind on how to deal with squirrels that run out in squirrel5front of your car. It’s instinctual. Most everything we do in life is that way. We just roll along, reacting. When things come at us, we react. What are those reactions based on? Lots of things. They’re based on our worldview, how we’ve seen other people deal with things before, the expectations of others, and how we’ve dealt with them in the past.

What happens when we are in a church and we find out that the pastor has been committing adultery?

From experience, I can tell you that the endgame goes one of four ways.

The pastor is often fired immediately and kicked to the curb. He’s gone. Not much discussion to be had because he’s sinned and he needs to go. Those are the consequences of his actions.

The other thing I’ve seen is that the church leadership finds out and decides not to tell the congregation. They put the pastor on “sabbatical leave“. This means he and his wife go to counseling for a few months and come back and he returns to the pulpit. Honestly, this doesn’t do much to fix the man’s relationship with Christ or his wife.

pulpit2The next way I’ve seen it play out is that the pastor confesses his sin and is allowed to stay on as pastor. The congregation sees what they see is true repentance and doesn’t see a need for him to go. This keeps a man who is very troubled in the pulpit without considering that he might need to step down for a while to get serious help.

The final way is for the church to recognize he needs help. He cannot remain the pastor, but he is also a member of that local body of believers. They follow the wisdom of Galatians 6:1 and desire to restore him to Christ. He’s given a severance package that includes intensive counseling which hopefully involves going to a place that can help restore him to Christ. The church, made up of godly leadership does all they can do with a pastor who desires repentance from this sin he has committed.

These are things I’ve been covering in my past few blog posts.

What I’m saying is that we are all wired to react. We all have a plan in our minds of how we would handle this situation. The problem is that most of us don’t have the right and biblical response wired in our minds. Instead, our first instinct is one of immense hurt.

What do we often do when people hurt us? We respond by acting out to hurt them like they’ve hurt us. It’s a very human response. But as hard as it may be, we are to be better than that. If the pastor has any hope of restoration and has any signs whatsoever of repentance, we are to chase him down and get him help. He’s one of us. He is a brother in Christ who needs us. He has fallen far and needs hope.

If we don’t get our hurt in check, it quickly turns into anger. Do you see how the plan that we innately have in place can quickly get out of hand? The passions of our hearts can quickly move away from the biblical response we should be having.

It’s not easy, I know that. Being a strong biblical leader in the midst of horrible news like that requires grace, mercy and patience. It takes every ounce of Christ like love. It takes discernment to know if the pastor is being truly repentant. He may rebuff every effort you make at asking him to repent. If that’s the case, the saddest thing is letting him go his own way.

But if he has any sliver of hope that he wants to repent, we are to treat him like the prodigal son. We are to love person pewhim as a wayward brother in Christ and get him the help he needs. Are we to welcome him right back into the pulpit? No. But we are to get him and his family immediate help so that this man will not be destroyed.

There are organizations within denominations that offer help for men who have fallen and want to be restored to Christ. I’m working on finding a way to get a list of them together so that people can find them in an more efficient manner.

If you are one of those organizations and want to be listed here or make yourselves known, please contact me so churches and fallen pastors can find you.

Let’s start looking at our plans before our pastors fall. Better yet, lets prevent these falls before they happen. I can come speak anywhere to talk about the dangers that pastors face. If not me, I know others who would be happy to talk about the pitfalls that pastors face on a daily basis that can weaken them.

It’s time to face these issues before they become a calamity in our local churches. Let’s start working together to make this problem a thing of the past. Let’s take that number of 1,500 a month and get it as close to zero as possible. But it will take local churches, church leaders, associational directors, local bishops, denominational leaders, and the people in the pews to make it happen.

I get an email each day from a fallen pastor, a church that needs help, a woman who is having an affair with a pastor, or a pastor’s wife who has just discovered her husband has been unfaithful. I minister to each of these people regularly and lovingly. It’s what I do. It’s heartbreaking, but I love that God has called me to it.

But I would find so much joy to be able to find a way to prevent it all from happening in the first place.

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.

If you are a church leader and still have questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

When a Pastor Falls 2: Confronting the Pastor

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, affair, church leadership, churches, deacons, Hershael York, leadership, ministry, pastoring, pastors, reconciliation, repentance, restoration | Posted on 10-04-2014

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This series is about how church leadership can effectively handle the fall of their pastor when he has been accused of sexual Three businessmen having meeting in officeimmorality. It is a horrible situation for any church to find themselves in. It is seemingly a n0-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.

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.

Pastors In Trouble 5: Unrepentant Questions

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, affair, brokenness, church, church leadership, fallenness, humillity, ministry, pastors, repentance, restoration | Posted on 12-03-2014

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I love helping (and am always more than happy to help) anyone who contacts me through this fallingministry, but I am closest to the messed up, confused world of the freshly fallen pastor. And it is a horrible place to be. I tell fallen pastors, “No one really understands fallen ministers like a fellow fallen minister.”

One of the most confusing things for people on the outside looking in is the messed up morality of a fallen pastor. Here’s the deal – when a guy has committed adultery for a while and hasn’t been caught, he’s not thinking clearly or biblically. And when he gets caught, he’s going to try to justify and excuse his behavior any way he can. Often, he will use Scripture to justify his sin. I tried it. It even sounded good to me at the time. But it was wrong.

To everyone else, it sounds rotten. It is rotten. That’s why I always tell people to be kind and patient with a fallen pastor. Don’t let him twist the truth, but do show him compassion. Understand that he is going to come around eventually. He is living the life of the prodigal son – one day he’s going to wake up and smell the pig droppings. And when he does, he’s going to need people who care about him.

I want to answer a couple of the most frequently messed up questions I get from fallen pastors today (I introduced this issue in my last post). The answers will seem pretty obvious. But that’s just it – when you’re waist deep in the crud of sin, the answers aren’t obvious because we aren’t looking for truth.

You know what’s even more troubling? I get these same questions from church leaders who want to ignore the sin of their pastor because they don’t want the church’s reputation to suffer damage. They would rather hide the pastor’s affair (even though his wife knows), tell the woman he had an affair with to move on (because she’s usually a church member or member of the staff) and sweep it under the rug so that the church isn’t traumatized. I’m just gonna tell you that a decision like that always comes back to haunt a church and those involved.

quesr2So here are the most common messed up questions I get – questions I even considered when I wasn’t thinking clearly when I was mired in my sin.

1. “God has forgiven me, so why do I need to tell the church/my wife what I’ve done?”

God is a God of forgiveness. That is clear. He does cast our sin as far as the east is from the west. I am thankful for the amazing grace that God has shown to us by His Son Jesus Christ.

I blogged a little about this question before but want to give the response clearly again. If you are a church leader and you have committed adultery, you should ask God for forgiveness. But you also have a duty to tell your church and leaders.

When you were hired, voted in, appointed by a council – you were given the position of head elder/pastor and expected to fulfill the duties of 1 Timothy 3:1-13. Those people put their trust in you. They expected you to be faithful to your calling and be a person above reproach. When we commit a major sin, we violate their trust. When we violate their trust, we need to let them know and we have come under church discipline.

The same goes for our spouse. We took a vow. And even if we commit “emotional adultery,” there is something wrong in our marriage that needs to be fixed right away. If it doesn’t get fixed, we are going to do it again. Our spouse deserves to know that we violated our vow and that we have become vulnerable to sin.

2. “I committed adultery/had an emotional affair with a woman in the church. sorrycoupIt’s okay if she stays at the same church as I do, right?”

When guys ask me this question, I know a couple of things. First, they are in trouble spiritually and morally. They are not thinking clearly. Why? Because they think they are/or may actually be in love with the woman they are having an affair with. They cannot stand being apart from her. They don’t want to be away from her.

Second, if at this point a pastor has “only” admitted to an “emotional affair” and he asks this question – I can almost bank on the fact that he has crossed the line into the physical but he’s just not being forthcoming about it.

The big problem is this – if a man has been caught and he’s saying all the “right” things like, “I know I’ve sinned and I want to make things right with my wife.” But his actions are saying, “I still want to be around this woman and I’m still texting her and talking to her,” then what he’s saying and what he’s doing are two different things. He’s not repentant. He’s still trapped.

Listen carefully though. I have a tremendous amount of concern for the woman the pastor has been involved with. I think churches should have the same amount of concern, especially if she is a member or a part of the staff.

Back to the issue at hand. Pastor, if you have committed adultery and you want your marriage to work out, you’ve got to distance yourself permanently from the person you were with. End of story. On top of that, you have to be transparent for a long time with your wife about your cell phone, email, Facebook and anything else you have passwords on. Give her access to everything. It’s freedom. It one step back towards trust.

repenta3. “I’ll be okay pretty quick, right? I won’t be out the ministry very long.”

When you get caught, what you need is to be restored to Christ. Something went wrong. Lots of somethings. I write about it on this blog and in my book. Those things need to be fixed before any kind of ministry can ever happen again. A life of brokenness and humility need to occur while God restores you.

This doesn’t happen overnight. It doesn’t happen in a few weeks. If you’re lucky, it might happen in a year. It happens in God’s timing.

But when you’re honest about your sin and how you came to it, God will be longsuffering and will heal your heart. It’s not easy being honest, but it is rewarding. It’s tough, but it is the narrow road for those who want peace.

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

____________________________

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

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

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

Pastors In Trouble 4: If You Have To Ask…

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, fallenness, humillity, pastoring, pastors, repentance, restoration | Posted on 10-03-2014

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This blog is entitled “fallen pastor” but a lot of what I write could apply to anyone. All of us are susceptible to a ashamedfall. All of us are sinners and are capable of some pretty awful things. Honestly, you know what you’ve done. Maybe at this moment you are aware of a sin that you are attempting to hide from everyone. Maybe it’s not adultery – but it’s something that has a hold on you.

I know. You can stop whenever you want. And it really doesn’t control you.

Maybe you’re not in that situation now, but if you’re human, you have been. All of us have. The flesh gets hold of all of us at some point and we are addicts to something. We indulge in a sin and try to keep it secret – no matter how small.

The entire time we are sinning, we try to fool ourselves though. We think we are masters of that sin, but we are not. It has mastered us.

My father did his best to instill some wisdom in me. Two great thoughts that he repeated to me stick with me. The first was, “Believe none of what you hear and half of what you see.” The second, and germane to this post was, “If you have to ask about the morality of something and whether you should do it, you probably shouldn’t.

He was dead right about that last one.

I’ve been writing this series about the problems in the church culture – how our pastors are in crisis. We are in a time of turmoil unlike we’ve never seen before.

I can’t tell you how many fallen pastors email me with questions about moral issues and church issues. They’re guys who have just been caught and they have serious questions like, “Do I really need to tell my wife about my affair?” or “I’ve told my wife, do I really need to tell my church?” or “I committed adultery with this woman in my church. I’m not going to do it again. So, it’s okay if she is still a member, right?” or “I’ve asked God for forgiveness and He forgives all sin. So there’s no reason to tell anyone else. That’s what the Bible says, right?

Like Dad said, if you have to ask, your morality is probably a little messed up…

self-justificationNow, if you haven’t ever sinned or if you have never been in a situation where you’ve never been in serious trouble, you’re probably yelling at your computer screen. For those of you who find those questions ridiculous, let me tell you that they are very real and I get them A LOT. I don’t get as riled up as some people when I hear them because I understand why fallen people ask them. I fell from the ministry so let me tell you that I understand those questions from a certain viewpoint, so let me give you some insight on why they get asked in the first place.

When a pastor is engaged in sin, his moral compass (sorry if you don’t like that term) is extremely messed up. If someone has been committing adultery for a time, then think about what they’ve done. They’ve cheated on their spouse, emailing and texting someone, lying to their family, preaching while they’ve been sinning, justifying their behavior to themselves and the other person, probably not having a deep relationship with God, and putting on a false face for everyone.

So guess what? When they get caught, their usual reaction to sin is not going to be very strong. So don’t be too shocked when they say something like, “Well, I know I cheated on my wife, but God has forgiven me so you should too.

Yeah, it sounds ridiculous to us. And it makes us angry. But for a moment remember that this person is mired in a terrible pit of sin. Their morality meter has been shut off for a very long time. What they need right now is a few things. First, they need intervention. They need someone to speak the truth in a loving way to them. Second, they need someone to listen to them carefully. Third, they need someone who is going to love them – because this person is going to come to their senses soon and most of the world/church is going to be very angry with them.

Fallen pastors/fallen people say some very ridiculous things. Why? Because they have spentarrogant the past few months/years hiding their sin. And they’ve gotten really good at it. Also, they know the Bible pretty well – and they will use it as a tool to try to justify their sin. Is that right? Nope. It’s terrible. But that’s the place they are in.

And for a moment realize that all of us – each one of us – has justified our own sin at some point in our lives. We were all enemies of God before He saved us.

That’s why when I get asked one of those questions I listed above – I don’t get mad. I just remember that people are in a place where their sin has overwhelmed them to a point where they are not thinking clearly. Their sin has so much control over them that they are living the life of a person who is bound to do and say things that are not glorifying to God. I asked most of those questions when I fell. I was the same self-serving, sinful, blinded person. I thought I was okay, but I wasn’t. And I didn’t want to listen to anyone.

They don’t realize it. In fact, in some way, they will think that God is in control of that situation and anyone who speaks against them is their enemy. It’s part of their defense mechanism when they are in full sin justification mode. I know this because I’ve been there.

And I also know what it’s like when God comes in and takes off the blinders. I know what it’s like when God humbles us and lets us know that we have sinned horribly. It’s not the prettiest moment.

grace3But I’m thankful that in that moment, He also shows His amazing grace. I know that people aren’t always the kindest when we sin, but God is patient and long-suffering. People will say things and do things in reaction to our sin – and that is a result of our actions. But eventually, God will humble us and restore us if we humble ourselves.

Next time, I’m going to answer those questions above that a lot of fallen pastors (and church leaders who are trying to keep the peace) ask when they have been caught.

Churches, Christians, pastors, we are in a period of crisis. Pastors are falling at an alarming rate – some are committing suicide. What are we going to do to stop it? How will we change the church culture so that our ministers can become stable and secure?

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.

How God Uses The Fallen

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, Christ, grace, ministry, repentance, restoration | Posted on 21-02-2014

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Forgiveness: Who's Saying What?, Part 1Four years ago yesterday, I married my best friend. Not too long before that, I had fallen from the ministry because I had committed adultery. It was a sin that hurt many people, my family and others. It took me a long time to see what the fallout and consequences were.

A few months after my fall I started this blog to try to make sense. Throughout my life I’ve written for many reasons. I write when I’m happy, when I’m sad and a lot of times I write when I’m trying to make sense of things. Those days, I was writing to try to make sense of all the competing voices in my head. I had theological voices, voices of my dead parents, selfish voices, voices of guilt, happy voices – and I didn’t know what to do.

So I wrote.

These four years later, I think back to something Allison said to me one time. She says a lot of smart things when I take time to listen to her. She said, “God uses us because of our mistakes.” For a long time, I had been saying, “God uses us in spite of our mistakes.” She was saying something different.

I had made a mess. A big sinful mess. And for a long time I wasn’t sure God loved me, cared about me, or would forgive me. I didn’t think anyone wanted to love me or talk to me ever again. I had alienated my family, the people close to me, a church, and people who cared about me.

Allison and I had made a decision. We were all the other wanted. And there we were. And I had doubts. I didn’t have doubts about me and Allison. I had doubts about whether God would have any use for me.

I started blogging. Now, let’s fast forward to today. I’ve learned a lot since those days. Those confusing days that ran together. I know that God doesn’t want us to sin. He doesn’t want His leaders to commit adultery.

I also know that I get a lot of emails from all kinds of people. Fallen pastors, churches whose pastors have fallen, fallen pastor’s bluewives, etc. It used to be one or two emails a week. Now its more like seven or eight a week. Guess what I tell them? I tell them what’s biblical. I tell them what’s loving. I tell them what I didn’t understand before. The things that are Christ-like and loving and compassionate.

I don’t affirm sin, but I love them. I reach out. I just listen and let God do His thing.

And in all of that, God uses me – uses us – because of our sin. I had a fallen pastor a few weeks ago call me. He started talking to me and my heart broke for him. And he sounded just like I did when I was spilling my guts out to a guy four years ago. Every story sounds almost exactly like every other story except the details change just a little. I stopped him for a moment and told him, “Hey, I understand – and let me ask you – were you feeling . . . ” and I gave him the four things fallen pastors usually feel and experience before they fall.

He stopped. He said, “It’s like you’re in my head.”

That’s right. I was. Because I’ve been there. I don’t like the fact that I’ve been there, but guess what? In some way, I’m glad I have been there. Because I get to minister to people that most pastors, denominations, churches, and leaders throw into the trash. When these guys have been cast aside, I get to talk to them. And know what? Not many people get them. In fact, no one really understands what it’s like to be a fallen pastor except a fallen pastor.

God uses me because of my sin. Broken, fallen, cast aside – He picked me up, looked at me and said, “I still have use for you. Let me put you back together and give you purpose.”

I cannot express to anyone how much I love the depths of the grace of God for that. And how one day I will be happy to simply fall at the feet of Christ and throw all I have – which will be the most stinky, worthless rags in the world – at His feet and thank Him.

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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.

When The Pastor Gets Caught

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, anger, bitterness, church, church leadership, church members, culture, embarrassment, forgiveness, hurt, ministry, repentance, restoration | Posted on 07-02-2014

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The day comes out of nowhere and the news hits everyone hard. Everyone learns that the sadpastor has committed adultery. Or, for that matter, they’ve discovered he’s embezzled or been lying about something horrible.

Everyone has a different reaction. I was a pastor and I fell when I committed adultery. I had kept it secret for a few months, but you can’t sin under wraps forever.

What I knew then about the reactions of people is different from what I know now. I’ve spent the last four years ministering to fallen pastors, the church members and leaders who were hurt, their wives, and even the women they had the affair with.

In this post, I want to share with you the reactions that I’ve heard from people when their pastor falls. Why? Because I’ve learned something very important over the years – one of the most important things anyone can do is listen to what people are saying. When a pastor falls, the most important thing a church can do is listen. If we don’t listen, we can’t communicate. If we aren’t listening to the real hurt and concern of the people around us, we will never get to a place where we understand one another.

baptismEveryone has the right to react and feel hurt. Everyone has the right to feel disappointment in the person they listened to, trusted and loved.

I remember when I was writing my book, I was still having anger toward people who were lashing out at me about what I did. One of the most helpful conversations I had was with Dr. Hershael York who basically told me, “Ray, you don’t get the right to get angry with those people when they lash out in anger. You’re the one who committed adultery. You put them in that position. Even if their anger is unbiblical, which they’ll have to answer for, you need to keep silent. That’s part of being humble.

He was right. Now I’d like to share with you some of the things I’ve heard from people over the past few years. I’m writing them so that we can see the larger picture. Once everything comes out, where do we go? Remember that a lot of things said in the first few days of discovery are said in anger or disappointment:

Church member #1: “I can’t believe it. He baptized my kids. I trusted him. How could he do this? I guess it goes to show you that you can’t trust anyone?

Church member #2: “I never trusted him anyway. That’s horrible. His wife should leave him Pastor Holding Bibleright away. He has got to be fired right now. He’s probably been doing this for years.

Church leader #1: “You know, we could just sweep this under the rug. Surely we can do damage control on this. If this gets out, it could hurt the church.

Church leader #2: “He’s done. This is an embarrassment. He needs to type a letter of resignation now and we have got to move on as quickly as possible.

Church leader #3: “He’s in trouble and I don’t like what he did. He can’t stay on here as pastor, but we do have a responsibility to help him and his family. Let’s go talk to him. I’m not sure what we can do, but let’s see if we can get him and his wife some help.

Community pastor#1: “Wow. I never thought he would do that. Goes to show you it can happen to anyone.

Community pastor #2: “What a disappointment. He just makes us all look bad.

Community pastor #3: “I need to call him. I don’t know what I can do, but I can at least reach out.

The pastor himself, reaction #1: “I cannot believe this is happening. I don’t know how I got here. I mean, I know how I got here. But, I don’t know what to do now. I’m about to lose everything. It’s all my fault. I need help.

Reconciling With A Fallen Pastor, Part 3: Why Early Contact Is EssentialThe pastor, reaction #2: “I’m done. I’m getting all these angry calls. I’m leaving anyway. I don’t want to have anything to do with church or any of this. My marriage has been awful and I’m leaving. No one can stop me.

The pastor, reaction #3: “I got caught. I know I did something wrong. Maybe I can get a little counseling and get back to ministry soon.”

There are a lot of different reactions. Not everyone is on the same page and every member, leader and pastor has a different set of dynamics. The pastor has sinned and is responsible to face the consequences.

Here at Fallen Pastor, I do two things. First, I listen to people who approach me with questions. If they want advice, I give it. When a fallen pastor contacts me, I help. I’ve heard from all three of those types of pastors I listed above. I listen to them. And I love on them. I let them know that life isn’t over. I want them to be reconciled to Christ. I tell them that I will stand with them and help them get back on their feet.

Sometimes, they don’t listen to what I have to say. Sometimes they just want the answer to one or two questions and I never hear from them again. And that’s okay too.

But what I also do is help churches be aware that the fallen pastor needs help. His family needs help. I know that’s a tall order. I do. He just got caught sinning. He messed up royally. He has brought a dark cloud to rest on the church. People in the community will be gossiping for months about this.

Then we come to Galatians 6:1 where we are told to restore people. Not to the pulpit – but to Reconciling With A Fallen Pastor, Part 2: Stages Of The FallChrist. We are to restore people when they fall. Know what we are to do when someone sins? Help them out of the pit they’ve dug for themselves.

In the beginning, it sure is hard. We are hurt, angry and want to put that person as far away from us as possible.

And the guys who get tossed to the side after they sin – I’ve talked to them too. Years after they fell, they are in a really bad place. Some might say, “Good, they deserve it.” Know what? We all deserve it. And I will never argue that a fallen pastor shouldn’t face up to the consequences he sowed. He will for the rest of his life.

What I am calling for is the Christian community to do what they can to restore people who sin. Restore them to Christ. And if you need help, reach out. We’re here. If you can’t do it yourself, find someone who can.

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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.

The Danger Lurking In All Our Hearts

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, church, church leadership, church members, fallenness, guilt, leadership, ministry, pastoring, pastors, repentance, restoration | Posted on 29-01-2014

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When I’m not helping fallen pastors and those affected by ministry failure, I work in the field of sports medicine.

So, the other day, I found myself at a basketball game standing between a school administrator and a police officer. (Sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, right?) I was telling them about an athlete I had years ago whose injury never got better because he refused to listen to the help I was offering.

I said, “He just refused to follow my instructions. If he had just listened to the experts, his injury would have gotten better. But some people just refuse to listen to those who are trying to help them.”

I suddenly remembered I was talking to a seasoned high school administrator and a police officer. I then said jokingly, “But I guess you guys wouldn’t know anything about that, would you?” They both laughed.

Every day the school administrator has kids sent to him who are causing problems in class. And I know this guy – he’s friendly and likes the kids. Almost always, when a belligerent student who has just gotten into trouble comes into his office, he tries to lighten the mood. But you know what? Nine times out of ten, the kid doesn’t want any of it. They’re in a defensive mood and keep sulking, they’re angry and they want to do things their way.

Take the police officer. Now, you may have opinions about different officers of the law, but this guy I was standing next to is fantastic. Let’s just say if I was going to be arrested, I’d want him to do it. Wait. Anyway, he’s been in his share of tough spots. And he has the right philosophy – policearhe’s there to protect and serve. Even when he’s got someone who is suspected of a crime and he’s trying to calm them down, he’s there to help them. But when someone is in trouble, they often don’t want to listen and they’re often defensive and end up getting a ride in the back of the police car.

Then I think about my ministry here at Fallen Pastor. I get a lot of emails from guys who really, really want help. They have sinned and want to be restored.

Then, I’ll get an email from a guy who has sinned and may or may not have been caught. And he wants to know what he can do to stay in the ministry and save face. Now, for a moment, I’ll talk to them and tell them that he needs to deal with his sin. He’s committed a grave sin that needs to be confessed to God, his spouse and he needs to tell his church leadership as well as his church. If he’s repentant, he will come to the point where he knows he needs to do this.

But some guys don’t ever come to this realization. They want to stay where they are, ministering, pastoring, leading the flock while holding on to this sin. They say it’s enough to privately confess their sin before God and move on.

First, let me say that we all have this sort of desire to tuck our sins away within us. Just the childshopother day, I sat and listened to several people launch into a random conversation about shoplifting. All of these people are now well respected adults but they all admitted that when they were very young, they had each stolen an item from a grocery store and gotten caught. Interestingly, their parents had seen them. What was their first instinct? To hide their sin.

And honestly, most of us are hiding some type of sin at this very moment. Most of us are walking around with some major unconfessed sin that we don’t want anyone knowing about. We just keep it tucked away, keep committing it, thinking we have control over it. But we don’t. Sin is a vile thing that controls us – not the other way around.

Secondly, I want you to know that I treat everyone the same who contacts me. Whether a person repents or not, I’m still there for them. If they keep emailing me and telling me they’re not sure if they can repent, I’ll still talk to them. Know why? Because repentance isn’t something I can force on them. It’s a work and conviction of the Holy Spirit. And when or if it happens, they’re going to need someone to talk to.

ashamed3So when I get those emails or calls from a minister or church leaders who keeps wanting to lead their church while not letting anyone know that they have committed adultery, I tell them they absolutely must do it. That I am speaking from experience and authority. Scripture tells us that we must confess our sin.

Church leaders who have been entrusted to care for others cannot effectually lead others while there is sin and not tell their congregations. They were hired or appointed to be trustworthy people and have violated that trust. Is it easy to tell the church leaders or membership? No, absolutely not. But it is the right thing to do. And in the long run, it is the much better thing to do.

I’ve seen pastors who have sinned, kept the secret, then go to another church. Disaster followed them. I’ve seen pastors who sinned then tried to keep it covered and it ended up much worse than if they had just come clean. I’ve heard of men who committed adultery 20 years ago, the church leadership covered it up to keep the church from dividing, and then it came out much later only to cause even more damage than it would have in the beginning.

Friends, in conclusion, this message is for everyone. Unconfessed sin is a blight on your soul. repentncIt’s even worse for someone in a ministry position who is leading others. Don’t let it fester and weigh upon your mind. It will stay with you. Do what is right, confess what you need to confess.

If you need help, I’m here. I know you don’t know me, but I am here to help with a network of other men to guide you to if additional help is needed. If you don’t want to talk to me, pick up a copy of my book first, call a friend, or a former seminary professor, or a pastor friend, or your local bishop, or director of missions. Anyone. Just know that you aren’t alone.

Other people have been exactly where you are. Most of all know these two things – doing the right thing is never wrong. And know that you are loved and there is help for you.

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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.

“Our Pastor Committed Adultery 20 Years Ago”

Posted by Ray Carroll | 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.

The Confused Community: The Wounded Church, 3

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, affair, church, church leadership, church members, churches, fallenness, forgiveness, gossip, pastors, repentance, restoration | Posted on 12-11-2013

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How does a pastor’s fall effect a community? How should local pastors react? What is the church supposed to do when rumorthe pastor commits adultery? Whether you’re a regular attender, member, or visitor, you might be looking for help or a way to cope.

When a pastor falls, a sort of shock wave goes out through the community at large. The church finds out first and word spreads through many different sources. Some of the stories are shared accurately and some of the details become distorted as the tale is passed on.

Let’s look today at how the fall of a pastor effects the different parts of the community and how people can make things better for the church.

1. Those attached to the church

The local church is typically considered to be those who are members and attend with some regularity. Those who are attached might be regular attenders who have never joined, those who are members who consider it their home church, those who live in the community who attend strictly for special services, or those who send their children to the church but do not attend themselves. All of them hold some fondness for the church for a particular reason.

In the years since my fall, I’ve had a chance to talk to some of these folks and how the pastor’s fall had an effect on them. For some, there was great anger toward him and his sin. They were angry that he could commit such a sin and some returned to the church during the turmoil to show support. Some, if they were still members, would willingly show up to vote him out if he had not yet resigned.

I’ve also seen the opposite reaction. Some in this group showed the attitude of, “He’s a sinner/human like the rest of us. He should lose his job, but out of place anger isn’t going to help anyone.”

Why the two reactions? The same two reactions can be seen in a cross section of regular membership, but anger typically prevails. Possibly they don’t have as much of an emotional stake. Perhaps they did not know the pastor well. Or maybe it was a response they learned elsewhere. We will address that in a moment.

2. Local pastors

It actually takes a little longer for local pastors to find out that another pastor has sinned in the community. He typically hears from a church member or from another local pastor. Sometimes he will hear it during a weekly pastor’s meeting.

pastorbrAgain, the responses are different. Many local pastors will distance themselves from the fallen pastor. Even if they’ve known the man for years or from seminary, communication will be shut off. Why? We would hope our pastors would be the most compassionate.

After talking to fallen pastors, ministry leaders, associational leaders and others, I think I’ve put together a pretty good list of why local pastors seem to turn their backs on the fallen pastor.

One, they might feel as if they have nothing to say. What could they say to him? What counsel could they offer? It’s difficult even for a pastor to talk to someone who has fallen so far. Two, they might feel that if they talk to him or help him, they might be seen as being guilty by association. Many pastors are image conscious and don’t want to be seen associating with a pastor caught in adultery. Third, deep down, they each know that lurking within them is the same propensity for sin. Within each of them is lust waiting to be drawn out by temptation. A fallen pastor reminds us all of our frailty.

3. The media and the public at large

Thankfully, this is something I really didn’t have to deal with in a big way. I did have to answer people in public when pagethey had questions, but they were rare.

But I’ve talked to many who have had large churches and their adultery was a news story on television or in the newspaper. Living with that is called consequences. And from what I understand, it’s pretty awful. Most people think the guy deserves it.

What Should We Do?

Let’s step back from these three groups and make an assessment. How are we to react? What are we supposed to do?

I’ve found that people are going to respond to the fall of a pastor in one of three ways, typically. One, they will try and sweep it under the rug and pretend it didn’t happen while asking him to resign. Two, they will force him out and kick him to the curb in anger. Third, they will ask he resign, but surround him in love and godly counsel, seeking to restore him to Christ.

The different reactions, I believe, are a mixture of what we’ve witnessed, what we’ve been taught, and our personalities.

So what about those who aren’t in church very often? If your voice is one of compassion, help and restoring the pastor to Christ, than its important. If you’re going back to add more pyres to the wood pile, don’t.

Do I say that because I’ve been there? Yes. And I’ve been on both sides of it – the side that stirs it up and the side that is being condemned. Before ever moving to condemn anyone, always remember, “There, but for the grace of God go I.”

If you can help the pastor, do it. I had two pastors who reached out to me. That was it. But I had several friends who didn’t go to church reach out to me. All of these people loved me for who I was and not in spite of what I did.

Also, don’t believe everything you hear – from the rumor mill OR the freshly fallen pastor. Bottom line: he sinned and needs people to walk with him. To talk with him, not condemning him, but pushing him towards repentance and restoration.

prayforIt’s also important to ask what your role is in the fall of a pastor. Is it your pastor? Is it your church? If not, pray for him. Don’t spread gossip. Support those you know within the church. If you have godly advice for the church that follows Scripture, offer it. But pray for the church’s leadership that they handle things in a godly manner.

If the fallen pastor tells you his story, it will be from his point of view and it may sound like he is justifying it. You will know he is repenting when he begins to understand that he sinned in the face of God.

And when someone calls you to tell you “what they heard”, don’t listen. Just remember there are people involved all the way around who need love, prayer, support and guidance. Remind yourself what it’s like to be gossiped about.

Above all, have the heart of Christ. Have love for the angry church member, the hurt spouse, the fallen pastor, the other woman, the children, and the church. You can’t go wrong by showing love.

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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 Ray Carroll | 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.