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I wrote a blog a while back challenging whether pastoring was the toughest job in the world. I got some good feedback, but I wanted to clarify that blog a little. Pastors do undergo a lot of stress. I write about the high expectations pastors face in my book, “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration...

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Can I Forgive Myself?

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in forgiveness, grace, guilt, theology | Posted on 16-06-2014

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Should Christians forgive themselves? I’m not addressing anything new here. If you’re not aware of the disagreement, let me give you a brief synopsis. It centers around the questions, “Can I forgive myself? Is self-forgiveness possible?”

shameOn one hand, there are those who say that Christians are fooling themselves when they seek to “forgive themselves.” Self-forgiveness is not biblical. If we have sinned and repented, God has already forgiven us. We can’t forgive ourselves any further. Here’s how John MacArthur puts it:

The person who complains about not being self-forgiving is often simply looking for flattering or consoling words from others as a way of salving the hurt that guilt has caused to their pride.” (Another helpful article here on this side of the argument.)

On the other side are those who say that self-forgiveness is necessary. Christians may have the knowledge that forgiveness has been applied, but they still wallow in guilt. However, their continued self-doubt has trouble accepting it. Here’s what blogger Michelle Van Loon writes:

On the other side of the equation, I think . . . we need to receive Christ’s forgiveness first and foremost in order to be empowered to extend forgiveness to others – and ourselves.”

I believe in a form of self-forgiveness, but I am careful to define the terms. I think both arguments have tremendous merit and I think both are saying many of the same things. The first group, I believe, is trying to keep Christians from justifying sin – which is important. The second group wants to make sure that Christians understand that some people have trouble accepting God’s forgiveness.

Alright, so let me break this down with a very personal example. I fell from ministry. I committed adultery. My own personal repentance before God took a long time. It took a while before I was humbled before Him and knew that my heart was right and I had begun to walk a path of brokenness and obedience again.

The sin of adultery is a heavy one. I did it, it was my fault. The consequences are mine to bear for the rest of my life. I knew theologically and in my mind that I was forgiven. There was no doubt that I stood clean before God and that the sin of adultery had been cast as far as the east was from the west. Scripture promised it and it had been appropriated to my heart and life.

But for a long time, I struggled to accept God’s forgiveness. Why? Several reasons. First, my shame. I was still ashamed of what I had done. I carried it around with me like an albatross or a scarlet letter. Even though I knew the truth of forgiveness, I had not assented to it yet.

Secondly, maybe I doubted that God could really forgive me. Maybe it wasn’t doubt. Maybe it was wonder at His grace. Why would He forgive me? There were plenty of people who still hated what I did. I hated what I did. I still asked daily for His forgiveness even though I knew that sin had already been forgiven.

Thirdly, I think I didn’t truly understand grace. I felt like I had to do something to gain God’s favor. On one gracemercyhand, I was trying everything to get back the favor of people I had hurt. So it only seemed natural that I had to make God like me again. But that wasn’t the case. He had forgiven me. He loved me because of the sacrifice and work of Christ. But I hadn’t accepted that yet.

But one day it finally hit me. Call it whatever you like. I forgave myself. It was a moment where I said to myself, “God has forgiven me. Why am I continually bringing up this sin to Him if He’s forgiven it? I’m the only one who is holding on to it. I need to let it go.” In that moment, I forgave myself. Maybe that’s not the best word. If you want a theological term, I recognized the appropriation of God’s forgiveness and grace to my life.

Whatever happened, it was all God. My self-realization did nothing to save me. My “self-forgiveness” didn’t make more sin go away. Christ had already done the work. But thanks to the Holy Spirit, my eyes were opened to His continuing grace in my life.

So, self-forgiveness? I can live with the term if it’s used in the right way. MacArthur has the right approach. The other blogger is right too. No, we can’t excuse away our sins by ourselves. But if we don’t understand the grace that has been applied, we can be hindered from understanding the amazing love we have been shown.

Other helpful articles:

Christians Must Forgive Themselves” by Mike Ruffin

Can Christians ‘Forgive Themselves’?” by Michelle Van Loon

Forgiving Ourselves” by Charles Stanley

____________________________

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.

Is Anyone Qualified To Pastor? The Forest of 1 Timothy 3:1-7

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in Christianity, church, churches, expectations, fallenness, holiness, judgment, leadership, ministry, pastoring, pastors, restoration, theology | Posted on 22-03-2013

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I’ve written about whether fallen pastors should be allowed to return to the pulpit. Some fallen pastors reconcile with pulpit2their wives, some are unable to. I’ve seen men go through a process of repentance and return to a lifestyle of holiness and return to ministry.

Each time I blog about it, I mention the verses in 1 Timothy 3:1-7, Paul’s qualification for an overseer in the church. Among the qualifications, an overseer must be “above reproach, husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent, not quarrelsome, manage his household well, keep his children submissive, not be a recent convert, and be thought of well by outsiders.”

Tough list. But I think when we approach this passage, we’re missing the forest for the trees. It gets broken down into each individual characteristic. And that’s important. But we forget that basically, this is a letter from Paul to Timothy. And what is Paul doing? Answering a question on how the church should be organized and how leaders should be selected. More on that later.

I hear one comment a lot, “Well, by that list, no one could ever be a church leader. None of us is perfect.” The logic often follows that since no one could keep any of those things, the list isn’t a hard and fast list of rules. They aren’t suggestions, but a lifestyle to be maintained over the course of one’s ministry.

I suppose that there are two extremes to this. The first extreme is that no one should pastor. No one is perfect. A lot of pastors attempt to keep a perfect image, but we are all sinners. The other extreme is that anyone can pastor, regardless of sin, ongoing or repentant.

One of my guilty little pleasures is to visit my blog stats every day and find out how people found my site. It’s interesting to look at some of the search terms. Recently I saw someone searched, “My pastor is texting my wife late at night.” Another, “Can a convicted felon be a pastor?” Those are some intriguing situations.

One of the statistics I quote in my book is that in a survey of conservative ministers. 30% of them said they had either mancomputbeen in an ongoing affair or a one-time sexual encounter with a parishioner. And it hadn’t been reported or caught. Add on top of that what seems to be a rampant amount of pornography use by ministers and there is a serious problem lurking in the hearts of ministers today.

If the list is a hard and fast pattern of rules that once broken, disqualify people for ministry, then a lot of people are disqualified. Right now. Anyone who has lost control, not been hospitable or become violent is out. They can be mixed in with the adulterous, those who can’t keep their children in control and those who are deemed in the category, “husband of one wife.” (And that depends on who you ask. Those can be divorced men before or after becoming Christians, the single, etc.)

If a pastor has a serious, unconfessed sin and is ministering and a church holds fast to the strict interpretation of 1 Timothy 3:1-7, then I would argue that a tremendous amount of our pulpits should be vacant next week. Heck, take a look at the man’s kids. If they aren’t submissive to him, then he should be taking a sabbatical or be dismissed immediately.

Panic yet?

I don’t think those verses are an ultra-strict mandate for ministers. If that’s the case, ministry leaders across the country are in serious trouble. For all of the ministers whose sin is discovered, I’d be daring enough to say that the hidden sin is twofold.

So why this list? Is it merely a suggestion? I don’t think that’s appropriate either. Surely we don’t want rampant sin from our church leaders. We should hold our leaders to a higher moral standard. We should expect them to be hospitable, to not commit adultery, to not be violent. Right?

treesI think we get into trouble when we take these verses and make them into something they were never meant to be. When we emphasize parts of them with great vigor but lessen the overall picture. The church is greatest served when we imagine ourselves sitting across from Paul as he addresses Timothy and Paul answers the question, “So, what kind of church leader should we be looking for?” That way, we can see the forest for the trees.

Can you imagine it for a moment? “Hey, Paul, what kind of leaders should we be getting?” “Well, Timothy, for sure, you need overseers who are husbands of one wife.” “Wait, Paul. Do you mean by that they can’t be previously divorced or single?” “Timothy, listen. What did I say? I’m trying to give you some simple rules for leadership. Look around you. You have some people in churches who are going to the pagan temple and engaging in prostitution. So, I think being the husband of one wife is pretty simple.”

In our time, maybe we don’t allow enough humanity from our leaders. We place them on a higher pedestal than they should be. We don’t see them as completely human. When they err, we are shocked. I’m not talking about major sins, I’m speaking of just daily interaction. Do we place them under too much pressure? The Barna Group suggests that pastors are expected to juggle 16 major tasks at once.

And with this list, I think there’s a reason ministers should be mentored and trained. There’s a reason all of us are living the continued process of sanctification. All of us are growing in holiness. Any pastor worth his salt will admit that he made mistakes early on that he wouldn’t make today due to pride or ignorance. But that’s part of the growing process.

Sin is not to be taken lightly. The men who aspire to it should know that much is expected. But an over-eager application of 1 Timothy 3 isn’t going to help anyone. It will increase judgment and self-righteousness among the believers. What we should be doing is living in grace and an expectation of holiness, mentoring and discipling one another. Knowing that all of our work will be going to serve Christ and glorify what He is doing in the world.

SBCVoices and the Calvinist/Arminian Debate

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in calvin, southern baptist, theology | Posted on 24-05-2012

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My blog is linked to SBC Voices. I love that site. My blog gets a lot of hits from there and I appreciate it.

I also must let you know that there is a terrible wallowing of opinion between Calvinist vs. Arminian voices over there. It’s kind of noisy. When I was in seminary at the flagship school of the Southern Baptist Convention, that stuff really meant a lot to me. I was a T-Shirt wearing, dyed in the wool Calvinist.

But I wasn’t when I got there. I had a friend talk me into it. His ideas and persuasions were on point. So were my professors.

Since then, I’ve committed adultery and fallen from ministry. I’ve had the time to read message board after message board of angry Calvinists and Arminians. People telling me why I or someone else was wrong. Oh my, it gets really weird. After my fall from ministry, I just don’t care about which theologian’s side I’m on anymore. (I can hear you: Yes, but if we don’t have theology, we won’t know what we believe! I’m not talking about doing away with theology, I’m talking about thumping our chests in the online world over who our theological heroes are and why we’re right.)

I remember in my days as a hard core Calvinist, I went to stay with my brother in law who was a so-so Arminian. He had a tote bag that had on the side, “Whosoever will may come.” It ticked me off. Because I was convinced whoever designed it and had underlined the word “whosoever” was anti-Calvin. I wanted to secretly take it away and burn it.

Now, I know, that’s just plain Scripture. Whosoever will may come. I’m still a sovereigntist. I can’t explain to you why I committed adultery except I’m a sinner. I can’t explain why David committed adultery. He was a sinner. We call Jesus the Son of David. That’s crazy.

The worst thing we can do is keep arguing in front of people about why we think we’re right. The best thing we can do is go hold high the supremacy of God in the universe and His saving power. Hide behind your internet anonymity if you want and argue the Canons of Dort. If it makes you happy, go for it. But if you haven’t stood in the middle of the mall and asked someone about their salvation, your theology is bleak.

I’ve fallen a long way. A long way. And a lot of people hate me for it. But I can do one thing right. I can cast aside my ultra-superior-arrogant love for a theological system and begin to focus on Christ and those He came to save. I can realize that there are millions out there who he would identify with who would look nothing like me and go tell them about the good news. I can love those who have fallen, those who are different, those who need help and those who are generally ignored by the church.

Every ten minutes I spend writing or reading on a Calvinistic/non-Calvinistic message board is ten minutes I could have told someone about the life changing experience Christ could give them. (By the way, the blog posts are usually great, it’s delving into the board posts that makes you want to put your waders on.) It has nothing to do with Jacob Arminius or John Calvin. It has everything to do with Jesus Christ.

So, I propose leaving the arguments to sweat and cigar smoke filled rooms where people can argue all day without the passing, immature believer can drop by and not quite understand what is going on. Either that or we may have to get Henry Kissinger involved. Worse, we may all have to go out and witness together. That is if we can keep from witnessing to each other…

Is Forgiveness For The Remarried Wishful Thinking?

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, divorce, fallenness, forgiveness, God, gospel, grace, jesus, justice, law, love, mercy, remarriage, repentance, salvation, sanctification, theology | Posted on 07-09-2011

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There’s a question that keeps bombarding me from time to time. Usually, it’s shrouded in some level of judgmentalism, but sometimes, and surprisingly, it comes with an honest heart that seeks an answer.

How can anyone who has committed adultery and left their spouse to marry another ever be forgiven by God? The fact that they are now married to another person shows they are unrepentant and due to Christ’s command in the Sermon on the Mount, they are actually living in perpetual adultery.

It’s an interesting statement and something I’ve pondered, to be sure. You better believe I’ve thought about it. So have thousands of people who are now living in divorced relationships that didn’t necessarily come as a result of adultery. What is the evangelical answer to more than half of the population? “Well, I’m sorry, but you’re living in perpetual adultery. You’re out of luck.”

For some, that is the answer.

Let’s face the facts first. Adultery is a sin, horrible in the eyes of God. Divorce is a sin. It is not God’s plan for the married couple. I have no “but” or “however” to place here. Those are the facts of Scripture. I’m not going to make an excuse. That’s just it.

I don’t believe that those sins are unforgivable. Once we’ve trudged on and made our decisions before the face of God and despite His Word, we have a lot to consider. If we’ve remarried and forged ahead, there’s little to be done. Someone will say, “You shouldn’t sin to expect grace to abound.” To be gracious to that statement, I will only answer that there are millions of marriages that fail. If Christian marriages were as great as they could be, partnered by Spirit filled people who were doing what they should, within a Spirit filled community, I surmise that we would have a lot less problems. But it is futile to throw stones when we don’t have a grasp of the situation.

We do know that people sin. We do know that we shouldn’t. And we do know that millions and millions of Christian people are divorced and remarried and probably want an answer to this question.

Has Christ really looked at us and said, “Sorry, you’ve locked yourself in this box of sin. There’s nothing I can do for you this time. Unless you’re willing to divorce the person you’re with now and go back to the other person, regardless of how much has happened since then. I just don’t think I can ever forgive you. Ever.”

No, you’re not beyond forgiveness. Did you commit adultery before your marriage that led to a divorce? Then repent. Seek out your spouse and reconcile. If it doesn’t happen, don’t keep committing adultery. Stop. Repent. Turn to God.

Did you and your spouse divorce for different reasons and now you’ve remarried? Did someone tell you that you’re an adulterer because you remarried? Well, I’ll tell you what. That may be the letter of the law as some see it, but even if it is the case, it’s a one time sin. Fall upon your face, cry out to Christ and ask for forgiveness.

As one man said, “You can’t unscramble the egg.”

When they cast the adulterous woman at the feet of Christ, He didn’t waste his time with those who judged her. He spent His attention and time on her. When He finally answered them, they were ashamed and went away. Finally He said to her, “Is anyone left to condemn you? Go and sin no more.”

The act of adultery, like any other sin, does not have to be a continual act. Regardless of what the world says, when we repent, Christ makes us clean, new, sanctified people. It’s over. Now, the world may have a field day with us, but that’s all garbage. What matters most is what our Savior sees in us. He did atone for all my sins. Even the ones I committed while spitting in His face, God forgive me.

Go, sin no more. Live a life pleasing to Him. He has taken away our guilt.

1 Corinthians 6:9-11: Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

The New Guy

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in church, forgiveness, pastoring, theology | Posted on 28-01-2011

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I got a call the other day from a pastor friend of mine who told me that Angel Falls has finally called a new pastor. Almost a year and a half after my fall, they’ve finally filled the pulpit.

He gave me the details and told me the guy had some pastoral experience and came from a local church pastored by a mutual friend of ours, Andy. I called Andy and asked about the new guy. He said the new guy’s name was Adam, he had a little experience and was very Reformed.

I told Andy that I was just calling because Angel Falls will always be close to my heart and I wanted the best for them. I told him that if Adam ever wanted to call me and talk, he was more than welcome. I didn’t expect a call.

The next day, Adam called and we set up lunch.

I wasn’t sure what to expect. I did know that I wasn’t going to say a bad thing about Angel Falls. What could I say? I had fallen, sinned, and it was my own fault. During my time there, most of the people had been kind and generous. I wasn’t nervous about the meeting but I didn’t want to slant his opinion about the church either. I talked about it with Cynthia and we agreed I’d let him do the talking.

We met at an O’Charley’s in Montross and he was friendly right off the bat. We exchanged seminary stories and he started asking questions. Was the church open to change? What was the community like? How did the deacons operate? What was Sunday School like?

We finally got around to my sin and I gave him the 20 second version. I fell, I hurt them, had spoken with four people since then and hoped he could help them heal.

The best part of lunch was that he never passed judgment on me. In fact, he told me that during the pulpit committee meeting, they asked him about how he would relate to female members of the congregation. He said he answered them like this: “Listen, I’ll answer your question, but this isn’t going to be about what happened in the past. This is about me and you. People sin. You sin. I sin. We lie, cheat, and we steal. Let’s not make this about what happened and how you got hurt. Let’s make this about the future.”

I liked that answer. Pulpit committees too often ask the candidates questions that relate to the previous pastor’s problems. They shouldn’t. But I also understand why they do.

At the end I said, “Adam, let me tell you what I wish someone had told me. They’re good people at Angel Falls. There are a few, like at any church who will drive you nuts. For the most part, they want to love you. Let them. Give to them and they’ll give back. Let the deacons mentor you. Let them handle the small issues so you can concentrate on the Word. And most importantly, be yourself. Don’t let people get you down.”

I think Adam is going to be okay. He’s a little younger than I am. He has a great deacon body to mentor him. His theology is good, he’s energetic, and has a plan. He loves the Lord.

In all, I want what’s best for Angel Falls.

He said, “You’re more than welcome to come visit the church anytime.” I couldn’t help but chuckle.

“Adam, I appreciate it, but there are still a few there that want to punch my lights out.”

He said with a sly smile, “Then maybe I should preach a series on forgiveness. Better yet, I’ll have you come preach supply and you can do it.”

I’ll give him one thing. He’s got a sense of humor. He’s gonna need it.

Huh. Didn't Know This.

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in mary, pastoring, theology | Posted on 12-08-2010

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What they don’t teach you in seminary.

Guess they were too focused on the Reformation to tell you this or this.

Yeah, don’t bother telling me how Wikipedia is such an informed resource. This Baptist is just a little surprised. No, it doesn’t change my theology much (at all). Just perks up my ears a bit. The Reformers were presented to us as heroes against Catholicism.

If you tried to tell your church this stuff, they’d run you out on a rail.

Huh. Didn’t Know This.

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in mary, pastoring, theology | Posted on 12-08-2010

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What they don’t teach you in seminary.

Guess they were too focused on the Reformation to tell you this or this.

Yeah, don’t bother telling me how Wikipedia is such an informed resource. This Baptist is just a little surprised. No, it doesn’t change my theology much (at all). Just perks up my ears a bit. The Reformers were presented to us as heroes against Catholicism.

If you tried to tell your church this stuff, they’d run you out on a rail.

Providence And Depression

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in bathsheba, calvin, david, depression, friends, providence, sovereignty, theology | Posted on 22-05-2010

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Depression is an awful thing.

Those who have never experienced it cannot identify.

Those who have seen loved ones go through it have had a taste of it. I watched my mother endure a lifetime of horrible depression. It wasn’t until my college years that I learned that I was suffering from it.

It’s interesting to hear people who don’t understand depression give you their cures for it. I was corresponding today with a friend who suffers from it. Those who don’t know about depression say things that don’t really help much because they don’t understand it.

“If you had more faith, you’d get better.”

“Just snap out of it. Think of what you have.”

“It’s all in your head.”

“You don’t have any reason to be depressed.”

Friends, we could argue about clinical depression until the cows came home. Some people suffer from depression and others don’t. There are chemical triggers that bring some down into the pits of despair and you can’t describe. It’s like being lost in a world that you wouldn’t want to be in. Nothing makes you happy. Nothing could bring you out of it.

It’s a realm that can’t be described. Nothing can make you happy. You can’t pray yourself out of it. You can’t pull yourself out of it. If you could, you would. It’s a deep, dank, dark, horrible place that you don’t want to be in. You want to pull yourself out of the hole. You know there’s a world out there to participate in and live in. You want to be happy and free, but you can’t do anything about it.

It’s a horrible existence.

That’s where I’ve been the last two weeks. I’ve been here before. Right after my adultery got discovered. And at other times in life. I don’t know what has brought this recent bout of depression on but it’s very real and very hard.

Cynthia has been very good to me. She’s helping me through it. I’m medicated for anxiety but the depression is tough to deal with.

I’ve blogged before about my theological difficulties with providence. I was/am a Calvinist. I honestly don’t know where I am now. You know that if you’ve read this blog.

I caught hell from commenters over my David and Bathsheba posts. And on some level, I should have. I wasn’t trying to make a deep point on those, but I was trying to make sense about God’s providence. I didn’t communicate it well, that’s for darn sure.

Let me explain it another way, and please, if you’ve been hard on me in the past, feel free to keep being hard on me. But at least listen to what I’m trying to say. Everyone has a theological background. None of us can escape our worldview. We all think a certain way because that’s the way we were raised. It’s the way we were taught. It’s the way we think because someone told us it was the truth. Do we ever really stop to ask ourselves if we really know the truth? Whether what we think is true or not?

One pastor friend I have, who is a Calvinist (maybe a hyper-Calvinist, I don’t know) would tell me that every single motion we make is pre-ordained by God. Once, during lunch, I poked him with my fork and asked him, “was me poking you on the arm with my fork preordained by God?” He said, “Absolutely.”

I said, “Then was my adultery preordained?”

He said, “Yes.”

I said, “But my adultery was my own fault and my own responsibility. I was fully culpable for it, right?”

He said, “Yes, it’s the mystery of God.”

Alright.

Then I have another friend who is a Calvinist. Of sorts. He says that God’s sovereign election only pertains to His choices in matters of salvation. Anything else is a matter of our free choice. Great.

That’s what prompted me to write those blogs about David and Bathsheba. That’s what was at the heart of them. If David hadn’t have sinned, we wouldn’t have had Solomon. Bathsheba is mentioned as being in the lineage of Christ. Does that make David’s sin permissible? Absolutely NOT! Was Solomon God’s Plan B? No. I don’t believe that either. God is a sovereign God who has had a plan since the beginning.

I hear what you’re thinking. God’s plans are unknowable. It’s useless for us to pry into the secret things of God. Please don’t hear me trying to blame God for my sin either. I’m not. I’m the vile sinner who violated God’s law. I am.

But how does it all fit together? I have no idea. But it keeps me up at night. Too much seminary education.

But something else has happened to me with my depression in the past two weeks to let me know God is at work. I’ve wanted to absolutely drop off the face of the earth in the last three days. I’ve thought that the world would be better off without me. I have wept, I have cried, I have wanted to be erased. I can’t explain where the depression has come from or what triggered it, but it is very real.

But so is my God.

Today and yesterday, He responded. Despite my lack of theology and understanding, He responded through people.

First, He responded through my beautiful wife, Cynthia. She was there for me. She understood my grief, depression and sorrow. She just listened. She wrapped her arms around me and held me. She comforted me and prayed for me. She reminded me that this grief and depression are temporary.

Secondly, I got a phone call from another fallen pastor I haven’t heard from in a month and a half. What are the odds? He called me today to check on me. I poured out my heart to him. He has depression as well. We had only talked once before, but he said he felt the need to call me and talk to me. That’s the providence and grace of God, friends.

Thirdly, another fallen pastor friend of mine emailed me and told me he was suffering from a bout of depression as well. We have shared a common experience from almost the day I have published this blog. While we have both sinned, we also recognize that God’s grace is great and there is a world of redemption before us. We love each other as brothers and give each other great encouragement.

Finally, I received an email from a fallen pastor I had emailed over two
months ago. I thought he had forgotten about me. He reached out to me finally. He had several things going on and reassured me he had not forgotten about emailing me. He was compassionate about my plight and was encouraging. He reminded me that God was with me and would be with me.

All of these things happened to me within a 48 hour period. A time period when I didn’t know if I would make it or not. When I needed God the most. God didn’t speak to me directly, but He didn’t need to. He spoke through His people – fallen, broken people who the world has mostly given up on.

And you know what? Those are the people God uses. And I needed to be reminded of that. I thank God for His practical providence.

Apologizing To Whom?

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, affair, apology, divorce, ministry, pastoring, repentance, sorrow, theology | Posted on 16-05-2010

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Found an interesting article yesterday written by the former editor of Contemporary Christian Magazine. It had been three years after Amy Grant’s divorce and the magazine wanted her to apologize for what she had done.

The editor, who was being asked by the publisher to write the article and ask for her apology, questioned the move.

An exchange from the article between him and the publisher:

“Who does she need to apologize to, Gerald?”

“Her fans. Us at CCM. And everybody she failed.”

The article is worth your time. But the topic behind it is also worth careful thought.

When one falls, to whom are they apologizing? David clearly stated after his sin with Bathsheba that he had sinned against God and God alone. However, it would seem that genuine sorrow and offering of a sincere sign of that sorrow to those directly offended would be appropriate.

I can’t begin to tell you how many times I apologized to Cynthia for what I had done. I apologized to my daughters. I even wrote a letter to individual members of my church and told them I was sorry I let them down.

Was apologizing to the church for my adultery necessary? I did not commit adultery against them. I did lie to them, yes, and I apologized for that. But I had many tell me I needed to apologize to them for my adultery.

My sin was made public very quickly. By Cynthia, her family, and by the church. I don’t know if there’s a way around that. Pastors are public figures and when they lie and cheat, sin like that tends to get made public. However, there has to be a time when it stops being discussed by those who were not directly involved in the sin. When the sin itself and the discussion of it turns into gossip and unhealthy talk.

One could argue that my blog is the furtherance of this discussion. A fair point. But I don’t view it that way. I’ve tried to handle my story in a way that is from my viewpoint and how I perceived them. I’ve kept everything anonymous so that those involved wouldn’t be further effected.

There’s a time to discuss sin and situations when it can help others understand seriousness of sin. And there’s a time when it’s simply unhealthy, destructive gossip that seeks to tear down others.

For Amy Grant, I think the editor had a good point. Did she owe her fans an apology for divorcing? Was her private life the business of her fans? Probably not.

My situation was different in many ways. My personal holiness affected my public ministry. I did owe the church an apology for my failing in that way. Many were hurt. An article by Christianity Today states, When a pastor falls sexually, his church responds like a wife betrayed by her husband, experts say.‘”

I am still in the process of asking myself the same questions I am presenting to you in this blog. Hopefully, someone will read this post and give me some interesting viewpoints on the matter.

Maybe I’m wrong. But that’s what this blog has been about since day one. The exchange of ideas. Whether it’s about Amy Grant or me, I’d be happy to hear it.