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

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Would You Let King David Preach At Your Church?

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

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delorean

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

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

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

Yes. You would.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other helpful articles:

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

Lessons Learned About Pulpit Supply” by Ed Eubanks

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ye Which are Spiritual

by Bobby Sutton

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other related articles:

Restoring Fallen Pastors,” by Eric Reed

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

Should Fallen Pastors Be Restored?” by John MacArthur

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

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

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

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

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

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

4 Common Reactions To A Fallen Pastor

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in church, church leadership, church members, pastors, restoration | Posted on 04-07-2014

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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.

There are a myriad of reactions from many types of people. 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 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 as I’ve listened to many different people who have been through this. 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:

Reaction #1: Church Members:

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.

Reaction #2: Church Leaders:

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.

Reaction #3: Pastors in the Community:

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.

Reaction #4: The Fallen Pastor:

The pastor #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.

The 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.

Some might say, “Good, they deserve it.” Know what? We all deserve it.

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.

Some related articles to help your current pastor:

5 Ways to Pray For Your Pastor” by Nicholas Batzig

Pray For Your Pastor!” by Tim Challies

20 Ways To Encourage Your Pastor” by Dennis Rainey

10 Ways to Help Your Pastor” by Kevan Bartlett

10 Ways to Support Your Congregation’s Pastor” by Rev. Emily C. Heath

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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: Three Very Common Questions

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, affair, brokenness, church, church leadership, fallenness, humillity, ministry, pastors, repentance, restoration | Posted on 27-06-2014

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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.

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.

Book Review: A First-Hand Look At Pastor Restoration

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in book review, fallenness, pastors, restoration | Posted on 25-06-2014

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potipharI was contacted last week by Bobby Sutton, a fellow fallen pastor who is seriously interested in pastoral restoration. We talked on the phone for a while and he told me his story. He mentioned he had a book published, “I Slept With Potiphar’s Wife” about his experience.

After talking with him, I was intrigued, so I went to his publisher’s website and purchased it.

I loved it. Sutton writes his story in a gritty first-person style and gets right to the point. It didn’t take me long to get through, but when I got to the section on how he was restored, I had to stop and proceed slowly.

I’ve often wondered what I would do differently about my own book. Bobby Sutton’s book did what I didn’t do. He personally recounted what a pastoral restoration should be like. He did it in a biblically thoughtful manner and an emotionally gripping way. It made me remember what my own restoration back to Christ was like.

Bobby begins by talking about pastors who have fallen and haven’t begun their restoration process yet. He calls them “cave dwellers.” They’re like Elijah passing time in the cave waiting for the “still small voice.” I knew exactly what he was talking about. Months after my own fall, I was there, hiding from God, hiding from people. Bobby shares his own recollection of his time and what it took to come out of the cave.

Bobby then talks about how God gets the fallen pastor’s attention and begins the restoration process. It’s a difficult thing to describe to those who haven’t experienced God penetrating the heart of the sinning Christian. However, Bobby describes it extremely well. When God begins to work on the heart of the fallen pastor, it is a heart-wrenching yet joyous time.

If you’re a fallen pastor, I highly recommend this book. Especially if you haven’t found your way back on the path of repentance or restoration. Bobby’s down to earth manner will touch your heart and mind. As you read, you’ll feel like you have a friend walking with you along the path. I’d also recommend this book to anyone who desires to understand the process fallen pastors are going through or the restoration process itself.

Bobby’s book can be found in paperback or eBook format at Tate Publishing and other online retailers.

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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.

Advice For “The Other Woman”

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, affair, fallenness, guilt, pastors, restoration | Posted on 28-05-2014

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moralcrisisThere’s a moral crisis among pastors in our country. I can cite statistics all day – and I have on this blog – about pastors falling into adultery to prove the point.

But I think the thing that gets to me the most are the women who contact us through this website who most would call the pastor’s mistress, “the other woman”, or the adulteress. We minister to everyone who is affected by the fall. If I had nothing else to base my premise of a moral crisis among pastors on – the sheer numbers of women claiming to be having affairs with pastors still serving would be enough.

Before I start on this topic, I want to address two things. First, I fell in the ministry and I married the woman I had an affair with. I’ve made it clear before and I’ll say it again. We are not an example to be followed. We sinned in the eyes of God. Also, even though we sinned, any advice we give should not be automatically dismissed. It should be matched up with Scripture. If it’s truth, it’s truth only because God said it first.

I also want to caution readers who read this to be aware of their beliefs and emotions on this topic. It’s one thing to have a sense of compassion for the woman caught in adultery in John 8. But often, I’ve found that when many Christians come face to face with a real woman caught in adultery with a pastor, they are quick to judge her harshly and are unwilling to show her love or any kind of path to restoration in Christ.

Most of the emails we get from women who are having affairs with pastors are very similar and saddening. Many have the same characteristics which outline the problems in our churches, but will also form the basis of my advice I would like to give to all the “other women” out there who might read this. Here are the most common statements we hear:

1. “This affair has been going on a long time. I’ve become convinced that it needs to end, but he tells me that it’s okay. He doesn’t want it to end. What should I do?”

More often than not, the woman involved with a pastor will show moral objection long before the pastor will. She is otherwomanoften guilt-ridden and wants out, knowing that the relationship was a mistake in the first place. She admits that she was weak when it started and acknowledges her sin, but also admits that her bond with the pastor is very strong.

At the same time, the pastor often justifies their actions together. Sometimes, he will use Scripture to do so. He will often tell her how his wife doesn’t listen to him anymore, how he’s never loved anyone like her, how he was never meant to be with his wife, that God meant her to be his companion and not his wife. He’s an accomplished speaker and people person and his words hold sway with someone who is in love with him.

My advice is always the same. Get out of the relationship. It’s sinful and is causing harm to both you and to anyone it touches. You are right to feel guilty but you can be free of it. God will forgive you of that sin, but you have to break free from it. The best first step is to leave the church and get free from any influence the pastor has over you. No more texting, meetings, phone calls, emails – no contact. Let him know it’s over.

2. “He keeps telling me that he’s going to leave his wife and family for me. He’s been telling me that for a long time. He tells me he loves me. He hasn’t left his wife yet. I don’t want to wreck his family, but I love him too.”

This happens more than you’d probably want to know. And these examples I’m giving? Most of these pastors are probably still serving. I’ll get to that in a minute.

In general, if you’re having an affair and a man keeps telling you he’s going to leave his family, don’t believe him. But that’s not even the point. You shouldn’t even be in that relationship and you know you shouldn’t.

My dad gave me some of the best advice ever one time. He said, “Son, if you ever have to ask whether or not you should be doing something, you probably shouldn’t be.” In other words, if you have to ask about the ethics of something – especially something pretty simple – you probably already know the answer.

That’s what’s under all of these questions. It’s not really about “should I run off with the pastor“? The women who contact us already know what they’re doing is wrong. They really want to know “I know I’m wrong. How do I get out?” Again, stop the relationship. Remove all contact. Find people who can help you.

3. “The church leaders found out about me and the pastor. But the pastor lied about the relationship. He told them I was coming on to him and he kept trying to push me away. He told them it was an emotional affair but there was more. I have proof. The church leaders and members are attacking me and lying about me. I have proof of how awful he was and don’t think he should be pastoring. Should I turn him in?”

otherwoman2Again, I get this a lot. And it’s tough. Because on one hand, when any of us has been hurt and accused of more than we should, we have an overwhelming sense of justice. Especially when the other person we were co-partners in sin with is getting away with it and blaming it all on us.

My advice is difficult, but I lean on some Scriptural ideals. Jesus calls on us to be peacemakers. We are also told that our sin will find us out. God has a plan for everything. If we really believe that – as hard as it may be – then the advice may not be so hard to follow.

I advise not to retaliate. Get as far away from the church and pastor as possible. Focus on getting yourself right with God. You get better. Get yourself help. Heal your heart. Get that situation in your rear view mirror and give it over to God. If that pastor and church leadership know the truth and are twisting it, then they aren’t going to believe you anyway. No one there is. They aren’t going to accept anything you say.

I know you want justice. I know you want the satisfaction of seeing him hurt like you hurt, especially when he told you he loved you and he made you feel special. But that’s not your place. Vengeance isn’t your place. God will take care of it. What you need to do is grasp the grace of God and His forgiveness for your sin. One day, that pastor is going to get exposed and he will have to face the music. When he does, he’s going to need grace as well.

Friends, I’ve seen a lot of hurt people in the past five years. I’ve talked to all kinds of people from different backgrounds. They all need love, grace, mercy and kindness. Some of them just need someone to listen for a minute without being judgmental. Some just need someone who’s been there and to tell them that Christ really does forgive and love them for who they are.

If you’re the other woman and want out, contact us. We’re here for you. If you’re a pastor involved in an affair, stop. You’re doing damage to yourself, your family, and to another person.  And I’m here for you. Contact me. I won’t judge you or yell at you. I do know the way to help and a path to restoration. Let us help.

Related post: The Fallen Pastor’s Wife – Wrote this post three years ago to help the wives of fallen pastors.

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

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

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

Why Churches Aren’t Growing: Transparency & The Fallen Church

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in apology, bitterness, church, church face, church members, community, evangelism, fallenness, forgiveness, ministry, reconciliation, relationships, restoration | Posted on 12-05-2014

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altarSo if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. (Matthew 5:23-24 ESV)

I write a lot about reconciliation and forgiveness. There are several reasons for this.

First, I was horrible at it before I fell. I was an awful example to my family, my friends, and my congregation. I now know what it’s like to be the one who desperately wants to be reconciled with people I have harmed.

Secondly, one of my reasons for blogging is that I want to see churches and fallen pastors reconcile. Some churches actually handle the process the right way. They approach the pastor when they discover his indiscretion, they help he and his family get help as they depart and stay in contact with him.

However, this is a rarity. Most churches harbor bitterness, anger, and never get over the event. I do not believe this is the will of Christ. As the verse above states (and many others), those who have been sinned against should be the initiators of reconciliation and forgiveness. As I have stated before, this does not mean letting the minister back to a place of authority necessarily, but it does mean love and forgiveness.

There are a lot of verses about forgiveness. Some put the onus on the one who sinned. But the verse above and others put the responsibility on the one who was sinned against.

In the Southern Baptist Convention, there are literally hundreds of churches that have been hurt by fallen pastors. Some of these churches have not made amends or reconciled with these pastors.

Do not hear me placing full blame on these churches. If you’ve read my previous posts on the matter, you will know that is not how I feel. angry churchThese men fell and sinned. Sometimes, they get pompous after their fall and immediately try to return to ministry. They become recalcitrant and egotistical. I understand that.

However, there is a responsibility for churches to reconcile with repentant fallen pastors.

The majority of our Southern Baptist churches are not growing. There are many reasons for this. Could I suggest that one of the many reasons for it is that we have a lot of junk in our souls that needs to be cleansed?

I know of one local church whose pastor left forty years ago on bad terms. He didn’t even sin morally. It was just a bad situation where he got into an argument with a deacon and his family who “ran the church.” Ever since that time, the church has replaced the pastor every three years like clockwork. The family who was “in charge” is still there running the show.

When you ask an outsider what is going on at that church they always point back at the event that happened forty years ago. That’s a shame.

That makes me concerned about churches all across the nation. It makes me concerned about the church where I fell, and it is my fault. It makes me concerned about the churches where other pastors fell who haven’t taken the time to heal or reconcile with the pastor.

Two things are happening in churches like that. First, a dynamic of distrust can set in where congregations will always have a weary eye of the pastor. And secondly, if the people never forgive, there is the constant sin of unforgiveness in the midst that will hinder worship, growth, and spiritual awareness.

I had a funny thought about evangelism as well. Would churches affected by a fall be less likely to evangelize? Would they be less likely to invite people in knowing that they might have potential sins to deal with?

In our Southern Baptist churches, we do a superb job of putting on a “happy face” each Sunday. We sit up straight, sing when we’re cued to, and shake hands.

nogrowthIf you have kids though, you know that the ride to church is completely different. “Don’t hit your sister! Be quiet back there! You’d better stop complaining about going to church! Don’t act up during the sermon this week!

And each Sunday during Sunday School a topic will come up and we’ll shake our heads at the sinful topic brought up. Lust? “We shouldn’t do that, but you know everyone struggles once in a while.” Greed? “That’s a terrible thing, we should store up our treasures in heaven.” Anger? “Well, righteous anger is fine, but Jesus said love your neighbor.

What if we were transparent during Sunday School? Lust? “Yes, I fight it daily, friends. Each day I struggle. Will you please pray for me?” Greed? “I’ve run three credit cards past their limit and it’s out of control.” Anger? “Me and my wife are having problems. I need help from someone. Can anyone here help me?

What about during the week? What if we acted at church like we did at work? What if the pastor walked in on us at our most sinful moment? What if people saw us worried about our finances, fighting with our spouses, angry with our co-workers, cussing at the mechanic who messed up our car, kicking the cat, etc.?

If we acted at church like we did during the week – now that would be transparent. To have people see us as we really are – broken, sinful, wrecked, miserable, depressed. Because under those Baptist smiles are broken, sinful people who really need help.

When I was a pastor and would go to my bi-vocational job, people would cuss in front of me without knowing I was a pastor. When they found out, they’d say, “I’m sorry, I didn’t know you were a preacher.”

I’d say, “Why are you sorry to me? You didn’t do anything to me. Be yourself.”computer

Why don’t we act around our church friends like we do around our weekday friends? We’re not transparent.

But guess what? God sees right through us. And yet, He loves us still. He shows us grace and mercy.

But, if one of us sees a church member sin or a church leader fall, we judge them harshly. And quickly. And we gossip. No grace. No mercy. Only judgment.

Know why we’re in decline? Because most of us (and I’m including myself in this) don’t look a thing like Christ and His grace when it comes to dealing with one another, much less non-Christians.

We haven’t forgiven those who have sinned against us. We harbor anger, bitterness and rage when long ago we should have reached out and shown mercy as Christ has shown to us.

But strangely enough, each of us will pile into our cars on Sunday, looking our best, put on our Baptist smiles and push down our troubles.

It doesn’t have to be that way. If we were all transparent, (because we practiced being real in front of one another) if we left our Baptist smiles at the door, shared our hurts with one another, reconciled our pasts, then looked out into our community and realized that we’re just like everyone else, we might just be fueled for evangelism.

Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:1 ESV)

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.

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 the Pastor Falls 4: What’s Next For the Church?

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in advice, anger, church, church leadership, church members, churches, forgiveness, gossip, leadership, ministry, pastors, reconciliation, relationships, restoration, struggles | Posted on 14-04-2014

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If you’ve been reading this series in order, then you’ve arrived at this point where the church leadership has done the zs.worth.0050best they can after they’ve learned that the pastor committed adultery. (Part 1, part 2, part 3) Hopefully, the pastor and his family are receiving prayerful support from the church and are being attended to by a ministry/counseling team that specializes in helping them.

But now here you are, a church leadership team without a pastor. Many churches are equipped with staff who can fill in for the interim, but many are not. In the past four years, I’ve seen how this process should not be done. So, I’d like to give some practical advice on how to proceed for the next few months with some do’s and don’ts.

1. Do acknowledge the hurt and sin that has occurred. Don’t dwell on it negatively from positions of power.

You’re going to have hurt people. In fact, leadership is going to be hurting for a while. Make sure your church has a way to cope with all the different feelings that are going on – hurt, anger, disappointment. And there will be a lot of questions as well. Questions like, “How could he have done this?” and “Why don’t you tell us all the details?

It really is like a grief process. It’s like losing someone unexpectedly. Some members will leave the church. Do your best to check on them. Some may not want to talk. Some may want to talk too much about it. Whatever the case, provide appropriate and biblical ways for people to address their feelings.

facebook3One thing that might need to be addressed (if it gets out of hand) is the use of social media. Remind the church that they are messengers of grace to the community. It is good for them to share forgiveness and okay to express hurt, but gossip is never a good way to heal.

Leadership can lead by example. It may be difficult not to preach on topics that pinpoint the sins of the fallen pastor. It may be difficult not to say angry things in public that do nothing more than make the situation worse. Remember that many in the church will take their cues from you. Leaders are to be Christ-like in their reactions. Do they ignore sin? No. But they also understand that once sin has been committed and handed off to God, it is in His hands.

When the pastor is gone, it’s time to focus on those left behind. Begin the healing process.

2. Don’t allow the lack of a pastor put a stop to true ministry. Do choose to be active in what God is doing around you.

A lot of people, for better or worse, identify the pastor as the head of the church. He’s not. Christ is. But the pastor is the face of the church. He stands in the pulpit each week, he’s the one who carries out much of the visitation, he does the funerals, he shakes people’s hands with a smile, and his name is on the church sign. It’s good to remember the legacy he left. He did do a lot of good things in the name of God. It may take a long time to remember those good things in the wake of his sin – but he did them.

What I’m trying to say is that a lot of people are going to feel a little lost. That doesn’t mean that a member of leadership needs to step in and try to act like the pastor. In fact, I’d call for the opposite. When I wrote my book, I found that the reason a lot of pastors get so weak in the first place is that they spend too much time chasing after the “stuff of ministry” and not chasing after Christ.

Get the leadership together and take some time to look at what is going on in the church. Look around and see what God is doing. Sometimes we are so focused on what we are trying to do and what ministries we are trying to grow that we completely miss out on where God is at work. Sometimes God is working on a few people who are on fire for Him. Losing a leader doesn’t mean the end, sometimes it gives the community of faith a chance to reassess their love for one another and their role in the community.

3. Don’t be afraid to be without a pastor for a while. Do make sure your fellowship is ready for the next pastor God has for you.

I’ve seen churches whose pastor fell put a pulpit committee together the next week. I don’t really think that’s the wisest thing to do. This is a crude analogy, but I think you’ll understand. Have you ever been through a breakup? Relationships are tough, aren’t they? And if you tried started dating someone right away, it just didn’t work. Why? Because you were always comparing that person to the person you were just with. Because you were thinking about them.

Can I tell you a little secret that every pastor who has ever been interviewed knows? Most pastor search committees interviewask really, really bad questions. In fact, many pastor search committees always tell you what the last guy did wrong by the questions they ask you. I got into this conversation with some pastor friends of mine once. Here are some of the questions they got asked by search committees: “Do you allow women to pray?” “Do you think it’s important for the youth to sit up front?” “You do think it’s important to go visit the shut-ins, right?” “Your wife doesn’t argue much, does she?

Seriously.

Your church needs time to heal. And that’s a good thing. There are a lot of denominations that offer interim ministers that are trained to help after a pastor falls. There are men like me who are able to come in even for a few months and do training with churches to talk with them and help them with some of the issues they are going through. Make sure the church and the leadership has a healthy heart before you ask a new pastor to come in. Because it won’t be fair to him if you’re suspicious of him for sins the last pastor was guilty of.

Overall, work toward holiness and healthiness as a church body. Is it easy? Not always. Focus on the members who want to make things better. Chase after the members who are confused and frustrated. Don’t give up on anyone. Be ready to partner up stronger Christians with weaker ones. Disciple one another. Love one another. Christ gave us the church for days such as these – so that we might live abundantly and share all things together.

forgivemeOne final thought. And tuck this waaaaaaaay back in your mind. There may come a day a long time in the future when your pastor has gone through his restoration process. And a few of your members want to contact him and say, “I forgive you.” Let them. He will desperately need to hear those words. He really will. And if you’re even braver, five years or so down the road, have the church leadership contact him and ask him how he is. And offer forgiveness to him if he’s repentant. You have no idea what that could mean to him.

I and other fallen pastors still live in a time where we are repentant and living lives in the best way we know how and we would love to reconcile (or hear “I forgive you”) with those we hurt all those years ago. It may never happen on this earth or in this lifetime. But you never know.

Other helpful resources for church leaders and churches:

How can a church survive/recover when a pastor leaves?” from Gotquestions.org

Is Your Church Without a Pastor?” by Dan Reiland, Global Christian Center

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 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.

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.

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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.

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