Category Archives: repentance

How Capshaw Church Forgave a Fallen Pastor

In the last two blog posts, I have been recalling one of the most memorable moments of this fledgling ministry – a church that came together to reconcile with one of their former pastors who had committed adultery. (part 1, part 2) Brandon Watkins, a former pastor had committed adultery and had reached out to me through my ministry and asked that I go with him to his former church for a reconciliation service. What we found there, we could not have conceived.

Capshaw Church in Huntsville, Alabama, pastored by Zach Terry, did something that is rare these days, but shouldn’t be.zach

They reached out to their former worship leader, Brandon Watkins, and gave him the chance to say he was sorry and they forgave. It was an amazing moment. I reached out to Bro. Zach Terry and interviewed him about this rare experience and our email exchange follows.

I also want you to know that if you are a church and your former pastor has repented and been on the path of restoration, follow Capshaw Church’s lead and reach out. Allow the circle of grace, forgiveness and reconciliation to be complete.

FP:  Why did you decide to reconcile with Brandon now?

ZT: I believed that there had to be sufficient time to say with confidence that Brandon was, “bearing fruit in keeping with repentance.” While we can never be certain of another person’s heart decisions, his decisions looked more and more like those of a repentant man. This had been the case progressively for several months.

FP: What were some things that were difficult for you and the church in the past few years?

ZT: Some people left the visible church entirely – jaded that a Pastor could have committed such sin.  Some capitalized on Brandon’s sin and used it to leverage control on current staff members under the guise of accountability – this was rare, but it did happen. Beyond that, there was the typical hurt and disappointment that comes when the reality of sin is revealed.

FP: Did Brandon’s return for the reconciliation reopen old wounds? Overall, was it helpful for the church?

ZT: It was one of the most healing things we’ve ever done. It think by the time it was complete everyone experienced healing and grace; there were no older brothers outside the camp.

FP: What was the process you followed in putting this together or was this new to you?

ZT: It was totally new to me. We learned as we went. Basically, it looked something like this:

  • I stayed in contact with Brandon, talking on a monthly basis for over two years.
  • For about six months, Brandon and I talked about the possibility of him returning for such a service.
  • Brandon consulted with all of his counselors and friends to see if they believed he was healthy enough to take this step.
  • I met with the leadership body of my church to get their approval on the service.
  • I met with those who had worked most closely with Brandon to discuss the service.
  • I met with those who raised concerns privately to work through their issues.
  • We planned and promoted the event.

FP: Does reconciliation mean restoration to you?

ZT: I do not believe Brandon would ever be able to return to the office of Worship Pastor at Capshaw. The sins he has committed will haunt him here and the reproach would probably never die. I believe it may be possible for Brandon to lead worship again in a different city, if his spiritual health continues to progress. That would be up to the local congregation to discern in my opinion.


To be frank, grace is awkward. Grace is messy at times; I’m sure we didn’t get it all right and perfectly dot every “i” and cross every “t.” But as dangerous, messy and awkward as grace sometimes is – GRACE IS GOOD.”


FP: As a pastor, what were some important things you stressed to the congregation? What did you want your congregation to learn?

ZT: I stressed the stark reality of grace – on a practical level. I stressed the fact that there are no guarantees given to a congregation when it shows grace. There is no way for me to prove infallibly that Brandon is repentant, therefore there is always a measure of risk involved in grace.

img_3501To be frank, grace is awkward – Brandon’s return made some people uncomfortable. Grace is messy at times; I’m sure we didn’t get it all right and perfectly dot every “i” and cross every “t.” But as dangerous, messy and awkward as grace sometimes is – GRACE IS GOOD.

FP: How would a church know if they are ready to do this sort of thing with a former pastor?

ZT: I think you get to a point that you realize it would be a sin NOT to reconcile. If the former Pastor is repentant and time has seemed to prove that fact – then you will find yourself feeling guilty every time you ask God for grace while simultaneously refusing to extend it. It is then that you know it’s time to officially reconcile.

FP: What surprised you about the reconciliation?

ZT: I was surprised that not everyone was in favor of the decision to reconcile publicly. A few had some strong emotions to work through. Specifically, it was difficult for some to see Brandon publicly sing again. Some wanted Brandon to publicly and verbally repent but thought that he should not be allowed to sing. We had to work through the concept that singing is simply thoughts set to melody. I proposed that if we were to allow Brandon to speak the words, but not sing them, we would be elevating the talent of singing to an unbiblical place.

It was very important to me that Brandon be invited to sing at the conclusion of the service. I felt that there was no better way for us to communicate the gravity of grace than to allow him this opportunity. I had not planned to say this, but it occurred to me as I brought Brandon up for the final song that, “Angels can sing the glory of God, but only a repentant man can sing the grace of God.


 I felt like this was a once in a lifetime opportunity to show the world that grace and its effect is just as real as sin. I had often quoted others who said, “your repentance needs to be as broad as your sin.” The only way for that to happen for Brandon was to allow him a very public forum to apologize and seek forgiveness.”


FP: What did you learn about your church?

ZT: I learned that the overwhelming majority of people in my church are HUGE fans of grace. I learned how much love they had for a fallen brother. I learned the power of leading with grace.

FP: What was at the heart of all of this? What I mean is, this doesn’t happen. Why Capshaw? Why even try when you knew people might have old wounds opened? Was there a moment you thought it might be a bad idea?

ZT: In 2012 we saw that sin and its effects are real. I felt like this was a once in a lifetime opportunity to show the world that grace and its effect is just as real as sin. I had often quoted others who said, “your repentance needs to be as broad as your sin.The only way for that to happen for Brandon was to allow him a very public forum to apologize and seek forgiveness.

FP: You and Brandon have been friends for a long time. Did that make it easier or more difficult?

ZT: I’ve always been harder on Brandon because of our friendship. I think our friendship caused me to perhaps go slower. I feel like I know him better than most and I could tell when he wasn’t being legit and when he was.

FP: What parts of your specific experience in reconciling with Brandon would you pass on to churches who want to do this?

ZT: Celebrate like Jesus! Jesus is the shepherd who celebrated over the one recovered sheep more than over the ninety nine who never strayed. Jesus is the prodigal’s father who throws a party at the return of his lost son. Baptize a reconciliation service in the spirit of celebration. If there was ever an occasion for a Baptist buffet – this is it.

Zach Terry is the Senior Pastor of Capshaw Church. He preaches there on a weekly basis as well as speaking at conferences and events. He is the author of, “Our Spiritual Battlefield. ” Zach and his wife Julie have three children – Carly, Cole and Caitlyn. They all live in Athens, Alabama where Zach is finishing up his Master of Divinity with The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary this summer.

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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.

A Blueprint for Pastoral Reconciliation, Pt. 2

A couple of weekends ago, I saw something transformative. It’s something I hope begins to happen in churches across the country whose pastor has previously fallen to adultery or any other sin. You can catch up on the details by reading my last blog – but understand that what I and the other people present at Capshaw Church in Huntsville, Alabama witnessed was a moment of phenomenal brandon02grace.

Brandon Watkins committed adultery over two years ago when he was serving as the worship leader. In those two years, he has been on the path of restoration. He is still on that path and has some way to go. But the pastor, Zach Terry, who is also a long-time friend of Brandon’s, has been involved in his restoration.

Zach felt it was time for Brandon to come back to Capshaw Baptist and be able to apologize and feel reconciliation with those he harmed. Brandon had called me and invited me to go along. I had hoped for a kind, gracious process. What happened was a Christ-centered moment where forgiveness took center stage.

Brandon met with his former worship team on Saturday night and answered a lot of questions. When a pastor falls, people have a lot of unresolved issues. There are a lot of open wounds. It was a time of healing for those involved. On Sunday morning, Zach talked to the congregation about grace. He talked about how he had told the church two years ago they would need to start “storing up grace” for when Brandon returned desiring forgiveness. He told the congregation that now was the time to release that grace.

Zach interviewed Brandon on stage and I can’t do it justice. Here’s the audio link. What I really can’t describe is Zach’s ability to share grace and describe the love of Christ during this process. I can’t convey Brandon’s brokenness and heart to reconcile. I really can’t tell you how it felt to hear Brandon sing when the service was over.

After the service, people came up to Brandon and I got to hear them say gracious things to him and have a chance to have their hearts brandon01healed to one another.

I cannot tell you enough that this is what our churches need across this country. I have been doing this ministry for five years and have heard fallen pastors who have been restored back to Christ say, “I just want to have a chance to tell my former church how sorry I am. I want to be able to stand before them and tell them that.

However, we are guarded. We feel like we are opening an old wound if we do that. But it’s reconciliation. It is part of being the people of God who welcome back the prodigal. Again, I’m not asking churches to bring a pastor back to preach or be in the ministry. I’m asking them to use what Capshaw did as a blueprint to have a time of healing.

Don’t think you can do it? In the next blog post, I have an interview with Zach Terry, pastor of Capshaw Baptist Church. He has some amazing insights on the process that occurred and how it changed him and his church. Soon, I’ll be posting an interview with Brandon about how it effected him.

Churches, pastors, leaders – I cannot tell you enough how the circle of forgiveness needs to be closed by this act of reconciliation. Please consider it. And contact me with any questions.

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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.

A Blueprint For Pastoral Reconciliation, Pt. 1

Two weekends ago, I had the honor of accompanying my friend, Brandon Watkins, back to capshaw1his home church, Capshaw Church in Huntsville, Alabama.

Several years ago, Brandon committed adultery while he served as the music leader there. I was preaching at Buck Run Baptist Church one Sunday and met Brandon’s mother and sister who told me about Brandon. They told me that he had just fallen from the ministry.

They gave me his address and phone number and begged me to reach out to him. I sent him a copy of my book, which I learned later that he promptly threw into to the trash can. However, I kept emailing Brandon. I texted him once in a while.

I would say, “Hey, Brandon, I want you to know that I don’t judge you. I love you. I’m here for you. I just want to listen. If you ever want to talk, I’ve been through it before.” I kept sending messages like that.

Six months later, he called me. He had fallen and he had fallen far. I won’t recall it all here, but Brandon had been through one of the worst falls I had ever seen. But I treated him like I treat any fallen pastor. I treat them like Jesus would treat them – with patience, love, and kindness. Like a prodigal. Knowing that if they are saved, they will come around and that someday, they will need someone to talk to.

There was a day Brandon needed someone to talk to. We’ve been talking for two years now. He’s been through some tough times. And I love him. I love him warts and all. I have heard his stories, his brokenness, his fallenness, his desperation, his anger, his hurt, his pain, his anger toward God, his relationship problems, his frustrations about life, and his daily life struggles. Know what? That’s the life of a fallen pastor.

I love Brandon with all of my heart. I would take a bullet for him.

brandonI finally got to meet him one day and it was the first time I got to meet someone I was helping. It made my heart soar. He just talked to me like a man who had the same problems I had. And we connected.

We are friends.

When I started this blog five years ago, I did it because there was no real help for fallen pastors. There were a few places pastors could go, but it wasn’t apparent. A publisher contacted me and asked me to write a book and I did. It’s helped a lot of people. I told someone recently, “When my Amazon sales go up, I get a little sad, because that means that a pastor has fallen.”

Most people who contact me I give them help and I never hear from them again. I send them off to another ministry who can help them further or I am able to answer a question. Most of the questions I get are from fallen pastors wives or from the women who pastors cheat with. They need a lot of help and I’m happy to help them. That’s why this ministry exists. To help anyone who needs comfort.

I help churches whose pastors have fallen. They contact me and I give them advice because they weren’t equipped to handle a ministry failure. That’s why I’m here.

But Brandon has been with me for two years. And two weekends ago, the church where he fell from did something amazing.

No, I take that back. Amazing isn’t the word. That’s a cheap word. They did something that I have only heard of once.

The pastor of Capshaw Baptist Church, Zach Terry, decided to bring Brandon back to reconcile him before the congregation.

Wrap your mind around that for a moment. Many of you who are reading this have known a pastor who cheated while at your church. What happened? The church kicked him out. That’s what happened to me. But that’s not the biblical standard. The pastor is a member of the body of Christ. Does he deserve to be restored to pastoral ministry? Maybe not. But if he is restored to Christ, then he does deserve to have a day where he can say, “I’m sorry,” before the church where he sinned.

It’s good for that church. It’s good for the congregation. It’s good to heal those open wounds.

This week, I’m going to talk about what happened at Capshaw Baptist Church in Huntsville, Alabama. And why it should be a blueprint for reconciling fallen pastors to the churches where they fell – when they have been restored back to Christ.

It will heal the congregation. It is what is necessary for biblical forgiveness. It will heal a church. It will change lives in your congregation, pastor. Don’t let the sins of the past dwell in the past. Open your heart to the forgiveness that has happened in the life of those who have fallen and who have been restored to Christ.

You will find rest for your congregation. You will find amazing grace. You will find revival.

Helpful articles:

From my old, anonymous blog: “Reconciling With a Fallen Pastor: Before Your Pastor Falls

Reconciling With a Fallen Pastor: Why Reconcile at All?

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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.

Too Many Fallen Pastors: A Call For Reformation

Since my own fall from ministry five years ago, I have been ministering to fallen pastors, their churches, their wives, the women they have been involved with, their families, and others. I’m always happy to see people restored back to Christ, yet I am still discouraged by the stories of discernmentinfidelity in the ministry, pastoral suicide and burnout, and divorce in the ministry.

I affirm as always that infidelity is a choice people make. It is also a place no one arrives at in a vacuum. Pastors and ministers are under terrible pressure and it doesn’t seem to be getting any better. Something needs to change. Reformation needs to occur in many places so these stories will stop. There is an epidemic and all of us can do something to make things change.

Here are some of the issues and some suggestions to get started:

Pastors

Church Leaders

  • Church leaders need to be ready and trained for a church crisis.
  • Church leaders should know the potential areas of weakness in the lives of their pastor.
  • Church leaders should be involved in the mentoring and spiritual well-being of their pastor.
  • When a pastor does fall, while it is difficult, it is on the leaders to remain faithful to the words of Scripture in handling sin and the sinner in the most Christ-like manner, while also ministering to the congregation.
  • Make sure that when a pastor falls, there are many people involved: The pastor’s wife, the woman he was involved with (possibly a church member or staff member), his family, the congregation. Wisdom and discernment are very important.
  • When a pastor falls, understand that the community is watching to see how the church is going to treat a fallen sinner.

Church Members

  • Church members should always be spiritually supportive of their church leaders through prayer.
  • When conflict arises, brothers and sisters in Christ should always approach one another in love and understanding, seeking victory in Christ.
  • When a pastor falls, be ready to wait for the truth and not gossip. Be ready to pray for those involved and forgive.

To this list, I would add two things. First, if you have already fallen or have been hurt, that’s why this ministry exists. To help you. You’re not alone. Life isn’t over.

Secondly, if you are a pastor or church leader who wants to see this stop, this ministry exists for you as well. I’ve linked to several previous blog articles for help and I will also answer direct questions. I’m available to speak to any size group.

What I do know is that this epidemic has to stop. We can each do what it takes to stop it. There is no one person to point the finger at to blame. We all have a role to play in stopping the scourge of ministry failure.

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.

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

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 Pastoral Adultery is Discovered 20 Years Later

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 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 Rejection of the Fallen Pastor’s Wife

Over the past five years as I’ve ministered to fallen pastors, their wives, their churches, and the women caught in adultery, there is one upwifeprofound and disturbing scene that plays over and over again. It is a story that is told in my book by eyewitnesses. It is a story I have heard numerous times over the past few years.

When a pastor or minister falls in adultery, the church is often quick to put him out. There is much anger, frustration, and sometimes hatred.

One of the questions that comes to bear quickly is, “What will his wife do?

This question is asked by her family. I’ve seen the wife’s family most often say, “You need to leave him. He’s cheated on you. Get rid of that man.

The response from the church is often the same: “He cheated on you and has abandoned his calling. Divorce him.

I don’t really know how to reconcile these thoughts. Let me say out front that adultery is awful. It’s terrible. When a man chooses to willingly commit adultery, he has abandoned his family, his marriage, and if he is a pastor, he has chosen to leave his ministry position. It is a terrible, sinful situation.

The feelings that occur when the pastor has been caught are tremendous. People feel betrayed. They are hurt. They have a sense of grief and vengeance at times. When any of us are hurt, we often lash out and want the person who has hurt us to feel the same hurt that we feel.

The cultural and secular response to adultery is to divorce. It is to leave your spouse. It’s the feeling the church has when they find out their pastor has committed adultery. It’s a typical response. It’s the most common response. The church wants to distance themselves from the pastor and they fire him, kick him to the curb, without any further mention of his name or consideration of his future. It is a very human and visceral response.

What I’ve been arguing for in this blog for five years is that the visceral response is not a biblical response. If the pastor shows no signs of repentance at all, it may be best to let him go on his way. But if he is caught and shows any kind of repentance, then Galatians 6:1 kicks into gear and we are to restore him as we are to restore anyone within the community of faith who has fallen into sin. That is what the body of Christ is about. I’m not talking about restoring him to the pulpit. But I’m talking about getting him help so that he can be restored to Christ. Back to his wife and family.

“What is most disturbing to me is the reaction I see when the pastor’s wife wants to restore her marriage to the fallen pastor and she is held in contempt.”

What is most disturbing to me is the reaction I see when the pastor’s wife wants to restore her marriage to the fallen pastor and she is held in contempt. This happens when the church has reacted harshly to the minister’s sin and they have no desire to restore him at all. They have decided that the best thing for the minister’s wife is to leave him. But, she has decided that the best thing is to stay with him and restore their relationship.

I have seen it play out over and over where churches see the pastor’s wife reject her as an ally of the fallen pastor. They see her as damaged goods – just as damaged as the fallen pastor.

What they should see is a woman who is deciding to be a restoring, Christ-like agent in the life of her husband. They should draw up beside her and give her and him the support they need to restore their broken marriage. Unfortunately, what happens too often is that the church throws both of them out. They see her as a blind person who can’t see that he is just a terrible, lost sinner who has fallen too far from grace and cannot be saved.

Is this the Christian response? Is this a biblical response?

hurtspI don’t want to be too hard on the church, because I believe in most cases, the church is responding out of anger and hurt. Most churches are ill-equipped to handle the fall of a pastor or minister in this situation. They may not have the ability to walk alongside their pastor and his wife, but they should be able to find people who can.

Friends, there is sin in this world. It happens to our leaders. And when a pastor falls and his wife bravely and Scripturally chooses to stay with him, they should be supported by the local body of believers. They should not be shunned or cast out. If the local church cannot find it within themselves to help, they at least should find someone on the outside who can walk with them.

Abandonment of a hurting ministry couple who are going through the worst time of their lives is not the answer. If we are going to address the serious issue of ministry failure, we have to do better. As church leaders, members, associational directors, denominations, and Christ-followers, we must do better to take care of those who we call brothers and sisters.

Here’s help:

Is Your Church Equipped To Handle Ministry Failure?” Fallen Pastor

Unmasking the Secret Pain of Pastor’s Wives

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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.

3 Ways To Dig Your Way Out Of Sin

You might have found your way to this site because you’re in the middle of a sin. Possibly adultery, mishandling money, pornography, maybe you’re about to commit adultery or have been getting too close to someone who isn’t your spouse. Also possible, you’re a pastor or minister.

I’m about to propose three ways you can start digging your way out of that sin. The obvious answer, most will say, is to turn to God and repent. That’s right. (To be clear, I’m not talking about human effort being able to save us from sin.) But when you’re a leader who has been engaging in deceit and deception, you feel like you’re as far away from God as you can be. I’ve been helping fallen pastors and leaders for five years and many of them ask, “How do I get out of this?

What a lot of people really want to know is, “How can I escape without anyone knowing?You can’t. Sin finds us out.

It’s a theme that’s repeated throughout Scripture. Sometimes we can hide from God and discovery for years. Sometimes months. But sin finds us out.

So what do we do when we’ve had enough of the lies and the deceit and we know we just want out?

1. Realize that getting out of sin costs at least as much as getting in. When we make the decision to sin, it costs. When we decide

This scene from "The Shawshank Redemption" aptly describes what it feels like to escape sin.
This scene from “The Shawshank Redemption” aptly describes what it feels like to escape sin.

to commit adultery, it will cost us our marriage (or a lot of therapy), our ministry, friendships, and a lot of other personal relationships. It will cost trust with other people. When we finally decide to get out of that sin, those accounts come due.

Sinning costs. And it costs a great deal. It’s not free. It comes with a great price. And when we’re tired of carrying it around, we have to realize that cost and be ready to face the consequences of it. Will we be forgiven by Christ when we are truly repentant? Yes, absolutely. Will we have the hope of reconciliation with people one day? Yes. But we also have to realize that we have crossed a line and we are responsible. That our sin costs and we have to be ready to pay the consequences for what we’ve done. (You might check out my previous blog post on punishment vs. consequences for more about this).

What I’m saying is that when you come to the point where you realize that you need help and you want out, push forward. Get out. The consequences will come. It is going to be tough. But God is merciful, there will be people who will help, and there is a future for you.

2. You can’t go wrong following Scripture. I like to ask pastors who are sinning, “What would you tell a church member in the sinning situation you’re in?” A lot of times, they say, “I don’t know.” That tells me that they really are blind to their sin. They know. They know exactly what’s wrong with what they’re doing. They just don’t want to stop doing it.

One of the best things you can do to find your way back is get on Google and type in your sin and “bible verses.” So if it’s adultery, Google, “bible verses on adultery.” Read them. If you’ve been sinning, it’s a good bet you’ve been doing two things. First, you’ve been hiding from God’s Word. Second, you’ve even been using God’s Word to justify your sin. Stop. Just read it for what it is. Listen for His voice.

3. Start telling the truth. If you’ve been in a pattern of sin, the best way out is to start telling the truth. It’s hard to stop lying and being deceitful when you’ve been doing it for so long. That’s why it’s best to find someone you can be truthful to. A mentor. A fellow pastor. A best friend. Heck, email me. And it’s going to be hard. It will be the most difficult thing you’ve ever done. But you have to do it. Because the deceit that has taken root in your heart is not who you are.

It’s not who God designed you to be. It’s not who God planned for you to be.

It’s time to stop the sin. And it’s time to reclaim who you are. Get help. Reach out. That’s why this ministry is here. There are others out there who have been what you are going through. You’re not alone and you’re not worthless.

Other helpful articles:

You Can’t Unscramble the Egg” by Fallen Pastor

How Do I Stop Sinning? Overcoming Your Worst Sins” Beginning and End

How Can I Overcome Addiction and Sin in My Life?” by Jack Wellman

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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.

Fallen Pastors: 3 Very Common Questions

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 three most common messed up questions I get about fallen pastors – 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.

Other helpful links:

Sexual Sin in the Ministry” by Harry Schaumburg, Desiring God Ministries

Pastors on Moral Failures in Church Leadership: Don’t Hide It” by Lillian Kwon, Christian Post

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

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

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

What Should We Think Of “The Other Woman”?

cheating6I recently wrote a blog giving advice to “the other woman.” You know, the woman caught in adultery. The woman the pastor has an affair with. The mistress. But what should we think of “the other woman”?

I’ve never liked any of those terms. I guess it’s because I was a pastor and married the woman I had an affair with. I could say, “We shouldn’t tag people with names according to their sin.” But I’d be a hypocrite since the name of my blog is “fallen pastor.” That, and Scripture  accordingly tags us according to the sins we are habitually committing – “murderer, liar, etc.”

When we use terms to describe people, we are speaking of their sin. When we start speaking of people, we begin to take the role of judge. When we speak of an “adulterer” to describe the person’s sin, we should always remember that there is hope for that person to repent and turn to Christ. When they do, they’re no longer an adulterer in God’s eyes, they are a forgiven person, cleansed by the righteousness of Christ.

With that said, what are we to think of “the other woman”?

Let me begin by telling you about what the relationship looks like before the pastor and the other woman get caught. He’s told her that he’s never met anyone like her. He’s told her that she listens to him and his wife doesn’t. He’s told her that he wants to leave his church and family for her. He has pledged his undying love for her. He may actually feel that way or he may just think he feels that way. Either way, they are in their own world of forbidden love.

Then, they get caught.

Next, one of two things usually happen if the pastor doesn’t leave his family for her. First, the pastor gets caught and tells the church leadership that it wasn’t a physical affair or as serious as it looks in order to save his family and ministry. He tells the church leaders everything they want to hear so he can save some face. In doing so, the leadership demand he stops seeing her.

When this happens, the leadership will tell him to sever all contact with her and often, the leaders will contact her (especially if she’s a staff or church member) and tell her to leave the church. They will tell her to never step foot in the church again. She might be asked to tell her story, but usually, she isn’t. Eventually, the story is passed around and the pastor’s version of events are told and the membership gets mad at her for “seducing” the pastor.

The second thing that happens is that the pastor falls and tells the church leadership and his wife everything. As in the first case, the leadership tells him to stop contacting her, they ask her to leave and the pastor repents and attempts to reconcile with his wife.

In just a few cases I’ve seen over the years, churches have reached out to the “other woman” to help her. But I’ve only seen that in about two otherwom4cases in 200.

Let’s be clear. Both the pastor and this woman have sinned. Both have committed adultery. Both are guilty of the sin. In just about every case I’ve seen, the pastor had a higher moral responsibility to stop the situation from going anywhere. But often, when the sin comes to the surface, it’s easier to place the blame on the “temptress.”

I think that this is a very unfair balance for several reasons.

First, there is a moral failure within every human heart that only Christ can address. When we open ourselves to the possibility of sin, stop actively seeking Christ, and cease fellowship with believers of like mind, our hearts begin to wander.

Second, when moral failure occurs within the church, all aspects need to be addressed. Attempting to restore (or ignore the sins of) a pastor while sending out another member of the faith is inconsistent with our call to restore any of those within our fellowship (Galatians 6:1). Of course, the call to restore should be consistent with the desire for repentance on the part of those who sin. But when a person is cast out without even the offer of help, counseling, or guidance, the restoration cannot even begin.

Third, when “the other woman” is cast out, despite her sin, she is in the midst of confusion and needs a tremendous amount of support. Yes, she has sinned greatly. Yes, she has dug her own hole. Yes, she has committed adultery with the pastor. But at the moment of the fallout, how should the community of faith respond to her?

What are we to think of “the other woman”?

One of the most painful things for the church is that this woman has taken away the pastor who has led them and loved them for a long time. It’s hard for many people to feel anything but angst for the person who by their actions, took away their spiritual leader and hurt the pastor’s wife. So, it’s understandable if they don’t want to restore such a person to Christ. It’s understandable if the church leadership just wants to put her away from their sight.

But this is what makes the community of faith different, isn’t it? I’ve spoken with a lot of “other women” who have said, “the pastor told me he loved me. He said he would leave his wife for me. He said we would be together forever. When we got caught, the leadership got so mean and told me to leave. People started gossiping and people who were once my friends are now acting terribly.”

upsetwomanI get what’s behind the church’s actions and feelings. Hurt. Anger. I get that the church membership and leaders are in a precocious position.

That’s when we have to ask what the Christ-like response would be. What are we to do when it’s hard to love? What are we to do when we are hurt by others in the worst possible way? How are we to respond when we are betrayed by someone we thought was a friend?

Christ knew the answer and lived it. He was betrayed several times and in horrible ways and forgave freely.

Now, our forgiveness might take longer to digest and actualize, but it’s something worthwhile to work toward. In the meantime, if we are part of a community of faith, we need to view “the other woman” as a fallen person, like we are. A person created in the image of God, like us. Someone worth fighting for, worth saving, worth restoration. A person who has fallen as far as they can and who needs the hand of a fellow believer.

And if we aren’t in a position at that moment to provide that hand, we have to be willing to find someone who can until we can open the door far enough to begin the process of forgiveness and restoration.

Next time: “How do we help the other woman?”

If you’re “the other woman” you might want to check out my wife’s blog and my book. Other articles:

Forgiving the Other Woman” by Rebeca Seitz, from Crosswalk.com

Questions About Affairs From The Other Woman by Anne Bercht” – these are letters a Christian seminar group gets from “other women.” It’s an insight to the problems they suffer and they’re just like the problems we hear about, showing that these women need help.

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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.