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God Still Loves The Fallen Pastor

You ever have a conversation with God that you just know was real?

I have. But only a few times. My friend, Joy Wilson, writes about this type of prayer in her book, “Uncensored Prayer: The Spiritual Practice of Wrestling with God.” Take time to check out her blog as well. I think if you give her a try you’ll love her stuff.

I was apparently engaged in this process without even knowing it. My mother used to do it as well. She kept detailed prayer journals. She wrote down conversations she had with God. The first time I took a peek at one of them, I was sure she was crazy. But after I kept going back to them, I knew she was conversing with God. I didn’t know how. I knew she was wrestling and hearing from God in her mediation/quiet time.

About a year after my fall from ministry and my marriage to Allison, I had a conversation with God that I will never forget. It wasn’t in audible tones. It was on a heart level. It was while I was on my knees with my Bible in front of me. I had few friends to speak of and little support. All I wanted was love. To be reminded of God’s love. To remember that He was, in fact, there. I’ll do my best to quote it for you. It was at a heart level, not audible, but it was very real.

Ray: “Lord, I’ve hurt so many. I’ve gone through so much because of what I’ve done. I have some opportunities to help people, but I feel inadequate. I just need to hear from you.”

Silence.

Ray: “I’m an inadequate husband, father, Christian, worker, human being, and I fell as a minister. I am a horrible sinner. I’ve asked for forgiveness so many times from you and others. People tell me to repent. I’m married now. I think I’ve turned away from a lifestyle of that one sin of adultery. What do you want??”

Silence.

R: “Please let me know you’re listening. So many times I’ve just wanted to give up. I can’t stand going to church. I can’t stand going anywhere. I’ve drug so many people down. I’ve disappointed so many.”

Silence.

R: “Maybe I should just shut up.”

Silence.

More silence. I’m about to give up again.

God: “Why do you still hang you head down when you go out in public? Why do you stare at the floor when you’re at the grocery or in town?”

Just like God to change the subject.

R: “I’m ashamed. I don’t want to see the faces of those people I’ve disappointed.”

G: “You should fear me more. I’m the one you sinned against.”

R: I’m beating my hands on the bed I’m leaning against at this point. “I know, Lord. It eats me alive. People tell me I haven’t repented, that I’m not apologetic. That I’m not forgiven.”

G: “You are forgiven. You sinned, violated my law, but now, you are clean by my Son. When you bring it up, it’s you bringing it up, not me. A huge mess was made, yes. But it’s over. I will still use you, but you have to seek humility. I no longer see you as a fallen pastor. I see you as my beloved child.”

I paused and wept. God had a better view of me than I did. He had a better view of me than most people and pastors in my community. Was this me talking to myself? It didn’t feel like it. Was I going crazy? Possibly. But it didn’t feel like it.

R: “Are you still there? Can I please ask something even though I don’t deserve it? I just want my kids to be okay.”

G: “Do they seem alright?”

R: “Yes. By your grace.”

G: “Rejoice. Remember what you learned a long time ago. They are only in your hands for a short time, but in my hands forever.”

R: In that moment, I couldn’t remember where I’d heard that before. “What am I supposed to do now?”

G: “Love like you couldn’t love before this. Remember what it was like to feel grace at the lowest point. Share it. Never forget it. Give it to others.”

Like that, it was over. I was worn out from a lot of things. Lack of sleep. Maybe I had too much medication in my system. Maybe I was delirious from stress. Because, I’ll be honest. I’m the last person to believe stuff like this when it happens to others. I had a lady come up to me and tell me that God spoke to her like this regularly once. I shrugged my shoulders and said, “Maybe he does. Good for you!

I slept for a long time after that. Immediately after I woke, I remembered, “Remember what you learned a long time ago. They are only in your hands for a short time, but in my hands forever.” That was something my mother used to say to me. She’d tell me that she’d worry about me and fret, but that she knew that God took better care of me than she ever could.

God cares for the fallen pastor. He loves the fallen pastor. Heck, after the fallen pastor repents, he’s not even a fallen pastor anymore. He’s just a renewed Christian with a new mission. God cares about all of His flock. When the one goes astray, He seeks Him out, leaving the 99 behind.

Don’t ever doubt God’s love when you are sinning (and know that He will love you while the consequences and fall out come as well). He will put you back on the path. Even when you scramble it up really badly, He will restore you. He loves you that much.

______________________

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

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

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

3 Ways You Can Prevent Pastoral Adultery

caringI can’t make you care about ministry failure. I can quote a lot of statistics to you. I can tell you that the ministry is tough on a pastor and that 70 percent of pastors and their spouses deal with depression on a regular basis. I can tell you that 30% of conservative pastors serving right now admit to having an inappropriate relationship with a parishioner and are still ministering. I could tell you that I get at least three phone calls or emails a week from fallen pastors, churches, or fallen pastor’s wives in crisisbut that probably wouldn’t make you care too much.

Most people have the same reaction about pastoral adultery. They see a minister fall on the evening news or in their community and say the same thing: “He should have known better. How could he have done such a thing? He must not have been called by God in the first place.

Those reactions are normal and I understand them. I used to have them myself.

I can’t make people care about the crisis in ministry by spouting statistics or pointing out the stories in the media.

But there is something you do care about. Your own pastor. The ministers who serve in your own church. Whether you are in a small country church or in a large mega-church, there is someone you care about. You care about your head pastor, your youth minister, your worship team, your worship leader, your children’s minister, your education minister or any of your leaders. I guarantee you do.

If you care about them, then you will want to listen to what I have to say. Pastoral adultery can be prevented. And your pastor/pastors/ministers are all at risk.

Let me say this first. Adultery is a choice. But what leads to that choice are a series of circumstances that can be avoided. I outline them in my book. They are things like a weak marriage, isolation, and unrealistic expectations. Church members can have a huge impact on a pastor’s life.

Do you want your pastor to stick around at your church and be a healthy, productive part of the kingdom of God? Here are some things you can do:

1. Treat your minister as part of the community of faith and not just as a hired hand

You’d be surprised to know that a lot of ministers feel like they are wage earners. They feel like they are in the trenches each week doing task after task, doing programs, preaching sermons, making visits, and they don’t feel much connection with the church. Most church members feel like they are part of the church. They are connected with the rest of the fellowship and making friends. But often, the pastor and his wife are afraid to make friends with the rest of the church.

Often, the pastor and his wife feel as if they are living in a “fishbowl.” They are expected to do certain things and live a certain way. They have to fishbowllive up to so many expectations and put on an unrealistic face. In doing so, they can never really connect with the rest of the church and be authentic members like the rest of the people. It shouldn’t be that way. The pastor and his family should be members of the community of faith just like the rest of the church. Unfortunately, they are often kept at arms length for whatever reason.

2. Let your pastor know he is loved and cherished

Your pastor spends so much of his time letting the congregation know they are loved. He spends his time counseling people when they have problems. When people have a question, he answers it. When people have a prayer need, he writes it down. When people need prayer, he prays for them. When people need a visit, he goes and visits them.

Have you ever taken your pastor aside and just prayed for him? Have you ever asked him, “What can I pray for you about?” Take a few people and take him and his wife aside on a weekly basis and pray for him.

I remember once when I was supply preaching at a church, a group of men came out of a room. I asked them, “What were you doing?” They said, “We appreciate you coming to preach. We are without a pastor. Every week, we spend 30 minutes praying for whomever is preaching because it is such a heavy duty.” What an amazing thing. These men did not know me, but they were praying for me and the task I had before me.

Even more, does your church take advantage of Pastor Appreciation Month? Or do you give an appropriate amount of time for the pastor’s vacation? He needs it. Ministry takes a difficult toll on the pastor and his family. He needs date nights with his wife. He needs someone to watch his kids so he can go out with his wife on a date night once in a while. Buy him dinner once in a while. Heck, it would be so wonderful if the church bought him a paid vacation once in a while. You have no idea what it would mean to him and his family.

3. Be a friend to your pastor and his wife

It’s the little things that matter. I have contact with so many pastors right now who are in the pulpit. Many of them feel so alone even though they are surrounded by a large congregation. They have a lot of duties to fulfill and many people to take care of. But a lot of them feel like they are unappreciated.

Write them a note once in a while to let them know how much you appreciate them. Befriend them and talk to them. A lot of people don’t actually talk to pastors and their wives like they are people – they think they’re up on a pedestal and unapproachable. They’re not. They’re real people with the same struggles and needs that you have. They need friends and connections and love. They aren’t theological giants who are going to judge you and your life. They’re people who are just as real as you and me.

Can ministry failure be prevented? Absolutely. It starts when church members show love to the ministers in their church and treat them as fellow members of the community of faith. It starts when we realize we are all equals, when we break down these walls and stop putting on our “church faces.”

I talked to someone the other day who was struggling and said, “Isn’t it strange that we can’t be ourselves in church – the one place where we should be accepted as the person we really are?When we can start being transparent as leaders and church members together, we can start changing these statistics.

____________________________

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.

SBC President Fred Luter, Pt. 2: Help for Fallen Pastors

fluter6Here’s part two of my interview with Pastor Fred Luter, current president of the Southern Baptist Convention. Make sure you check out part one before you pick up here. We covered all kinds of topics.

In the second half, we talk about what should happen to pastors who commit adultery, whether churches are properly equipped to handle the fall of a pastor, how pastors can be restored, and part of Pastor Luter’s own personal journey.

Fallen Pastors, Restoration, and How the Church Can Manage It

Ray Carroll: I believe there’s a moment when a pastor has forfeit his right to be the shepherd of his congregation.

Fred Luter: I believe that too. I’m not saying he can’t do anything. But he’s not fit to shepherd the people.

RC: Whether it’s an African-American church, or a Caucasian church that kicks a guy to the curb or gets a guy six months of counseling, everyone seems to be handling it differently. Six months of counseling isn’t going to fix what’s wrong with your heart, you know?

FL: That’s right.

RC: I believe when a man falls, it’s because there’s something wrong with your relationship with God and there’s something wrong with your relationship with your wife. And it’s going to take a whole lot longer than six months to fix both of those things.

FL: I agree with that. I’m on the same page as you.

RC: Churches are ill-equipped, rather, they don’t even know where to go where to look when their pastor falls. Whether it’s a Caucasian church or an African-American church, they most often don’t know where to go for help.

FL: I like the statement you made that when a brother falls, he’s not ready to be a senior pastor. See, that’s the problem in many of our African-American churches. Many of our churches, we didn’t have staff members. The pastor was the head honcho. We had associate ministers who were volunteers or bi-vocational. An African-American church, if the pastor isn’t there, it’s going to crumble. It’s going to fall because we depend so much on that person.

I think if there were more opportunities in the African-American church for preachers who fall and they can still be used in other positions other than senior pastor, I don’t think the damage would be as bad.

RC: I agree. I’ve seen guys who say, “I shouldn’t be pastoring right now. I need to be restored.” And when I say restored, I don’t mean to ministry, I mean to Christ. They need to get their life right with Christ before they start thinking about a return to ministry. I think if they do that, there’s a chance for them for a return to some sort of ministry. And whatever form of ministry they return to, that’s not up to me, that’s up to God.

“I’ll never forget when I started running for the position of Southern Baptist president, I started getting calls from all over the country from white media asking, ‘Why in the world does a black man want to be president of the Southern Baptist Convention?‘”

I believe what you’re saying is absolutely right. Galatians 6:1 says to “restore such a one.”

FL: Exactly. And that’s the problem with a lot of our brothers in the body of Christ. They don’t look at that Scripture. It says, “restore,” it doesn’t say “kick them to the curb.” I know you’ve heard the saying that the church are the only ones who shoot our own wounded. I know you’ve seen it personally and seen it other places. Where is the restoration? And it’s a problem.

And your ministry and I appreciate what you’re doing and the ministry Johnny Hunt has for fallen ministers. Johnny has helped a lot of pastors. We can’t just kick these guys to the curb. What if Moses had been kicked to the curb? Or David?

So somewhere, somehow, we’ve got to look at how we deal with a fallen brother or a fallen sister and the ultimate goal is that there needs to be restoration.

RC: We have a battle of extremes in many of our churches when it comes to fallen pastors. We either let him stay where he is without seriously dealing with his sin or we kick him out, which is saying, “If you sin, we’re done with you.” Instead, we should be saying, “When you sin, there is grace and restoration back to Christ for the repentant sinner.” What a model of restoration that is for the body of Christ to witness.

High Expectations for Church Leaders

FL: I think the problem lies in that we tend to feel that because of a pastor’s position that they should know better. But we’re human just like fluter8anyone else. I tell that to people at my church all the time, “I have marital issues just like you do, we have financial issues just like you do, and many nights I’ve slept on the sofa.” I’m very transparent with my congregation.

Yes, I’m in a position of leadership, but I’m a human just like you are. I have the same struggles and issues that you do. That’s why you need to keep me in your prayers. But when I do mess up, don’t say, “Well you should know better, you’re the pastor.” That’s the problem we have in a lot of our churches. We’ve put this guy on some kind of pedestal. And when they do fall how we deal with them is very inappropriate.

RC: That’s one of the factors I found when I interviewed pastors for my book that can weaken men to a dangerous point was overly high expectations. I also found that pastors have more unrealistic expectations for themselves than anyone else places on them.  Many have become consumed with doing ministry and have forgotten about pursuing Christ and letting Him do His work.

FL: And in the beginning we spend so much time in the Word and in prayer because we need help. There’s really only depending on God. But now we’ve got a few sermons under our belt and we look back and do some good things here or there and we don’t depend on God as much.

Recommendations for Fallen African-American Pastors & Churches

RC: So what would you tell me when an African-American brother or sister contacts me and says, “I’ve fallen or my husband has fallen and the church leaders are telling me I’ve got to stay or my husband has to stay and to keep quiet about it.” Generally, what’s your advice?

FL: What I would say is in spite of what the leadership says, you request some time off. Call it a sabbatical, call it a vacation, and just say you need some time. You don’t have to make it a public announcement, but the key leaders will know why. Tell them you need to work on yourself and you need to work on your marriage.

Franklin Avenue is the only church I’ve ever pastored. We started with 50 members. I was a street preacher after I got saved. I was preaching at Greater Liberty Baptist Church and came to Franklin Avenue. Technically, that’s how I became a Southern Baptist. Franklin Avenue was at one time an all-white Baptist Church.

luter5I’ll never forget when I started running for the position of Southern Baptist president, I started getting calls from all over the country from white media asking, “Why in the world does a black man want to be president of the Southern Baptist Convention?” I told them when I became a pastor, this was an all-white church and that’s how I became part of the Southern Baptists.

I never will forget there were times I was burning the candle at both ends, I felt I was the poster child for the Southern Baptists and I was on every news program. And it just got to the point when I used to go continually and I would come home and my kids would say, “Hey Dad, it’s good to see you!” But it got to a point where they would just say, “Hey Dad.”

And I said to myself, “Wow, I’m losing my family.” I’m going all over the country, preaching at all these places to all these people who are having me sign their Bibles, but I’m losing my family. And one Sunday I got before my church and said to them, “Folks, I need to take some time off. I’m going so much that I’m losing my family. And shame on me if I’m going all across the country and trying to save the world and I lose my own family.” I told them it wasn’t scheduled but I need a week off.

And guess what? They stood up and applauded and were very supportive. I will never forget that day as long as I live. My wife and kids had no idea I was going to do that.

People need to be honest with themselves. Like I always say – a drug addict can never be set free until they look at themselves in the mirror and say, “I’ve got a problem.” An alcoholic can never be set free until they look at themselves and say, “I have a problem.”

So the pastor needs to look at himself in the mirror and say, “I’ve got a problem.” Admit to yourself you’ve got a problem and tell your church, “I need to have some time off. I need to regroup. I need to get back to God.” Then pray like David did in Psalm 51, “Have mercy upon me, O God.” Do whatever you need to do to get away with your wife and reconcile. She may not, but you’ve got to work at it.

“And that’s the problem with a lot of our brothers in the body of Christ. They don’t look at that Scripture. It says, ‘restore,’ it doesn’t say ‘kick them to the curb.’ I know you’ve heard the saying that the church are the only ones who shoot our own wounded. I know you’ve seen it personally and seen it other places. Where is the restoration? And it’s a problem.”

I’ve seen us as pastors go an awful long way to work with families and help their kids and others, but we don’t always do the same thing for our own families. And that’s because we assume that our families should understand.

I also recommend to the church to set up some accountability procedures when he comes back. When he goes out on a preaching engagement, assign one of the men of the church to go with him. Have someone go with him, whether it’s a deacon or a trustee, but someone he’s comfortable with. And have the church cover the expense. Because you know how temptation is always there. Even at the church, there should be some accountability there. You shouldn’t be with a female in the office by yourself. Have a window in your office if you’re behind closed doors. Just some things that will protect you.

Because the temptation will always be there. The enemy will always make sure. That’s an area where you will fall. The enemy says, “Oh, that’s what you like? Then I’m going to keep pressing that button.” Satan, he studies us. My weakness may not be yours and yours may not be mine, but we all have one. And the enemy will study it. “Oh, Krispy Kreme donuts is yours? Okay. Alright.

RC: Krispy Kreme is everyone’s weakness.

I get this question a lot and you’ve talked about it some in regards to different situations. I have my own feelings on the issue. If a pastor has krispycommitted adultery, he needs to tell his wife and he needs to tell the church leadership. Does he need to tell the congregation? They don’t need to know the details, but they need to know. I feel that he’s violated the trust of the church and at least for the time, he’s forfeit his right to be the shepherd.

FL: I totally agree. They don’t need to know the details. But call a special meeting, church members only, but that doesn’t always work because you’ll have all kinds of people showing up.

The church needs to know. And that will say to the people, “Wow, he’s human like us.” Because there are a lot of people in the audience who have messed up like him.

RC: I’ll tell you what. Since I’ve been preaching again and sharing my testimony with congregations, many times during the invitation, I will have people come up and confess their adultery to me. And a lot of them are church leaders, Sunday School teachers and deacons. They say to me, “I never thought a leader could mess up like I did.” And they needed to hear that God could forgive them.

FL: I think that needs to happen. And that could be the start of reconciliation. For not only him and his wife and between him and God, but for him and the church. But those wounds need to heal. It’s a wound. And if it’s not dealt with it will just spread.

RC: Anything else you want to add?

FL: As president of this convention, I see a lot of things, I get a lot of letters, and there is just a need for guys who have fallen to be ministered to. We are known for shooting our wounded. But Paul says, “Considering yourself, lest you also be tempted.”

____________________________

Pastor Fred Luter, Jr., is the Senior Pastor at Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, Louisiana and the first African American to be elected as President of the Southern Baptist Convention. Read more about him here.

____________________________

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.

Special thanks to Dr. Randy Johnson for his help in making this interview a reality.

Fallen Pastors and Family Reactions

Over the past four years as I’ve ministered to fallen pastors like myself, I’ve had the opportunity to listen to how different familyfamilies have reacted to their fall from ministry. For the most part, it has been heartbreaking. I detail a lot of it in my book, but since then, I’ve heard much worse stories.

When a pastor falls, the easiest word to use is disappointment. There the pastor stood in his pulpit, after years of training and ministry, only to succumb to sexual temptation. Questions immediately arise, “Was he always like this? Has he done it before? Was he a sham all along?”

There is a lot to be said about fallen pastors and family reactions.

To the pastor’s immediate family – father, mother, sisters, brothers, grandparents, aunts and uncles – the questions are very difficult. These are the people who have known him the longest. They saw him grow up, do stupid things in his childhood, saw his conversion, attended his ordination, then witnessed his fall from ministry.

Their disappointment can hit even harder than it does to a church member.

I could tell you so many stories of the parents and siblings of fallen pastors who have chosen to break off all contact with a fallen pastor. Their disappointment or anger has made them want to not speak to him again. It’s absolutely understandable and a consequence of his adultery. Why? Because what they saw in him was promise. The promise of ministry and doing good for God and others.

Not to mention in-laws. People whose daughters were joined to these men of ministry and the hope of seeing a husband/wife ministry team doing good for the kingdom – with kids involved – only to see one man seemingly destroy it all with one selfish act.

sadmanI’m not going to get into what causes pastoral failure. I’ve blogged and written about it plenty. That’s not the point of this blog.

I do want to note that family disappointment in a  fallen pastor is very real. And it does hurt. And it is a thing that is very difficult to get over and forgive.

I committed adultery on the heels of the death of both of my parents in separate accidents and on the crisis of another family issue. That is not an excuse for my sin. Far from it. In fact, it probably made things much worse.

It is a warning that pastors who are dealing with grief need to be careful. Very careful.

In the midst of that, I began to realize that I had gravely disappointed many family members. People who had expected much from me. And they should have. I was called by God to do a specific job. I had disappointed a congregation and other pastors and friends. But the disappointment I felt my family knew was bearing down on me.

When I talked to other fallen pastors in the early stages, they told me horror stories about how their mothers and fathers would refuse to speak to them for years after their fall. Their brothers and sisters were so disappointed, they cut off all contact with them.

Here’s where I will get real. I was in such a mode of justification over my sin, I didn’t think anyone had the right to have that attitude. I felt that people should be reaching out to me with the love of Christ. Little did I know, my heart was not right and I had no repentance whatsoever. It took me a full two years for God to break my heart and show me how arrogant I was being.

Worse yet, I wrote a self-justifying letter to my congregation about my feelings. It went over like a ton of bricks. Why? Because there was no humility in it. I had not found true repentance. I was justifying my sin.

Yesterday, I got to meet up with two of my favorite people. Dr. Hershael York and my sister, Mary Ann. I was reminded repent5of two things that I have learned in my journey. Dr. York has been a spiritual father to me and while interviewing him for my book, he said, “Your repentance has to be more notorious than your sin.

In other words, no matter what you have done, no matter what path you have chosen, no matter where you are now, you have a choice to move forward and follow Christ at this moment. He was right. I haven’t always made the right decisions since then, but I hope that I’ve done well in my choices.

Then we come to my sister. I love her so much. When she moved away to college while I was in high school, I felt like my best friend had left. I chose my college based on the fact that it was closest to her. She was always my best friend growing up.

She got married to a wonderful guy. We’ve had our issues over the years, some good and some bad. But we’ve always been able to keep up a good relationship. We bonded more when Dad and Mom died. Then came my adultery. To be honest, she and her husband were the only ones who two months before I got caught asked me if I was having an affair.

When I got caught, I dreaded calling her. For the few months after, I knew she was disappointed. I knew she didn’t know exactly what to do. I knew it hurt her.

Allison and I got home tonight after having lunch with my sister and her husband. I was just sitting on the couch staring at the wall and Allison said, “What are you thinking about?”

I said, “My sister.”

She said, “What about?”

brosis I said, “I talk to a lot of fallen pastors who don’t have any contact with their siblings at all. Or even with their parents. But the family I care about still loves me. My sister must have had to go through a horrible time trying to reconcile my adultery in her mind. I know that she and her husband had to think about it and talk about it many times.

But you know what? She loves me. She loves us. She doesn’t condone my sin, but she’s there for me. It shows me that she loves me for who I am. And I can’t ask for a better sister.” I shed a few tears at that moment.

Then, I texted my sister something and she called right away and told her all of that. Know what my sister said? “You’re my brother. And I’ll always love you no matter what.”

Friends, that’s the love of Christ if I’ve ever seen it. I love my sister. And I love my family for loving me like I am. Thanks be to God for all of them.

__________________

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.

 

Men Who Smell Like Pigs: Restoring a Fallen Pastor

repentaI’ve been ministering to fallen pastors for over three years now through my book and this blog. It’s been a unique joy and blessing. Recently, I’ve been taking the stance that all churches, members and leaders need to be more involved with taking care of a pastor when he falls from the ministry due to sexual immorality.

Today, I’m not going to give you reasons why we should because I’ve done that before. I want to share with you one of the most rewarding things that happens when you care for and pursue a fallen, sinful pastor – you get to see and share in his restoration.

And so you’ll know what I mean by restoration – I mean to be restored to Christ. Will a fallen pastor ever be restored to ministry? That’s a different topic. When a man has fallen from the pulpit and sinned, he needs to focus on a right relationship with Christ first. Because his relationship with Christ went wrong way before his marriage or church relationship ever started failing.

There are two types of fallen pastors. Both guys typically get kicked to the curb by their churches. But the first type has a little bit of hope to get some help by his association or his church.

The first type is the pastor who gets caught red-handed. His sin is discovered and his is approached with it by his wife or leaders of the church. His response is an almost immediate desire to do what is right and repent. He may not have a heart full of repentance right away. He may still have lingering, sinful desires – but you have to remember his adultery went on for a while. But if he shows any signs of wanting to break free, he needs your help.

The first type reminds me of Peter when Christ restored him in John 20. Jesus asked him three times if he loved him and jesusandpetePeter answered three times that he did. “Lord, you know I love you.”

The tricky thing about a newly fallen pastor is that he may think he can fix himself. Any pastor who falls needs a group of people around him to help restore him, work through his sin and toward brokenness. I write about brokenness in my book and on this blog. It is essential that any man who has fallen from the pulpit come to a point where they understand the devastation their sin caused and run back to God. Dr. Hershael York helped me understand this point while I was working on my book.

If a man refuses to be guided by a group of other Christians or be accountable, that’s a huge red flag. I’ll be honest – in my experience and after talking to others who deal with fallen pastors across the country – restoration to Christ and true brokenness takes at least a year and possibly up to 18 months. God takes His time in dealing with the hearts of His people and I’m glad He does. He does it lovingly and patiently. But there does come a moment when he breaks us.

Of all the fallen pastors I’ve talked to who have been restored, most of them remember the day God broke them. They can remember the day their sin became real. It was part of a process. Most of those moments are very personal, but God does work on our hearts.

The second type of fallen pastor is the one hardly any church, association, other pastor, family member or denominational leader wants to deal with. It’s the pastor who commits adultery, won’t listen to anyone, gets a divorce from his wife and is gone. Now, there is typically more story in there that no one will ever hear or want to hear, but the bottom line is this – here is a guy who sinned, got kicked out of church and home, and no one wants to deal with him.

I believe we must reach this man too. I was this man. When these men email me, they have my full, undivided attention. Know why? Because I’ve noticed in this group, there is a trending rate toward self-abuse, depression and self-hatred. When is it okay to push a sinning pastor to the side and let him go?

I can’t do it. I don’t ever condone his sin, but I will forever be his friend. Know why? Because I believe that one day, God can and will do something to radically change his heart. And when he does, I don’t want that pastor to say, “No one in the church believes in me. I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing.”

sonfatherI hate stretching parables out and making more of them than we’re supposed to, but I’m going to.

Imagine the prodigal son, who has wasted his father’s wealth and now finds himself among the pigs. He stinks like a pig. He is helpless and hopeless. The Bible says that the son “came to himself.” That is what happens to many fallen pastors after a period of weeks, months or years. I’ve seen it. They snap out of it.

Anyway, the pig-smelly son decides to go back to his father’s house and attempt to at least get a job there. But we all know what happens. His father runs to meet him, not welcoming him back as a second class citizen, but as his son. See, the father didn’t embrace him and say, “Boy, where have you been for the past twelve weeks? You smell like pig!” Regardless of where the son had been, or where he had been dwelling, or how he smelled, he was still his son.

Cue the rest of the parable (that never gets preached on) and we find the older brother who is angry. He’s angry because he’s always been there for dad. But dad decided to throw a party because they found the pig-smelling son who ran off and spent money. The older son is indignant. The father says, “Son, you should rejoice because what was once lost is now found.” No, the older brother isn’t having that. He’s angry. He’s always been there. His brother ran off like a little jerk. Now he comes back smelling like a pig and he gets a party.

Point? I love all the fallen pastors who come my way, regardless of how they smell. In fact, I don’t even notice the smell. I know eventually, God is going to grab hold of them and take care of them. Restoration to Christ is really God’s job, I just get to help facilitate that. And it’s an overwhelming joy and honor

But it should be happening in the communities where these men live. And I pray someday it will.

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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.

Radio Interview & Welcome!

I have a radio interview in about 10 minutes (sorry for the late notice) on Tribulation News with Dr. Elizabeth Mattke. Listen to it online by setting your url to this page: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/tribulation-news/2013/05/26/special-guest-ray-carroll.

Also, for those of you who are listening, thank you for visiting the site. Take time to look around and check out the links above, read older posts or check out my book.

Thanks again!

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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.

New to the Site?

Welcome to fallenpastor.com! Thanks for stopping by.

If you’re new here and need help for yourself or your church, check out the Help! page.

If you would like to contact me directly, try the contact page.

If you would like to have me come speak at  your church or gathering, try this page.

If you’re looking for my book, it’s available at Amazon on the Kindle or in paperback.

I’ve got a lot of blog posts about a ton of topics. Feel free to scroll around or search for a post.

My Wife’s New Post: Does Someone Like Me Deserve to Be Happy?

Check out Allison’s new post on her blog: “Does Someone Like Me Deserve To Be Happy?”

Great insight. And I’m proud of the things she’s doing over there. She’s been able to help a lot of people. Click on over if you have a free minute.

__________________

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

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

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

What Does God’s Forgiveness Feel Like?

I had an interesting text conversation with a fallen pastor recently. He fell in the ministry some time ago and is still dealing with a lot of issues. He still has a lot of guilt over his actions. I was sharing with him about the forgiveness of God and he was telling me he has prayed for forgiveness many times.

forgiveHe then asked me a question I had never considered: “What does God’s forgiveness feel like? What does it feel like to be forgiven?

I had to consider that for a moment. His question cut through so many different layers of me that it really confused me for a moment.

The first layer it hit was my hardened seminary layer. My knee-jerk reaction was, “Forgiveness, in a theological sense, doesn’t feel like anything.” You have to understand my background to get that. I was raised listening to some staunch biblical teaching. It was solid, but there wasn’t a lot of grace in it. Feelings and emotion were acceptable, but only in a black and white world.

But I had to reject that. The whole purpose of my ministry here is that people need forgiveness. In the case of many fallen pastors who have been humbled, they are seeking forgiveness. They are thirsty for it. And when it is finally realized, it feels like nothing else.

The second layer the question hit was the world of the modern church in which we live. It’s not true everywhere, but the modern church is a place that is often devoid of forgiveness. When a church leader, pastor, or member sins, many times, there is often no seeking after restoration for that person in regards to Galatians 6:1.

A local pastor and I had lunch recently and he wanted to clarify with me what I meant about restoration. He was exactly right. The church should seek to reconcile with those who sin. I often use the terms interchangeably. Every church should seek out the fallen Christian actively, to restore them to the path to holiness.

Restoration to active ministry is a different story. I have my own convictions about that as did the pastor I had lunch forgiveness1with.

But reconciling one another to fellowship is non-negotiable. But too often, we are quick to throw sinning members and leaders overboard when they commit great sins by isolating them, gossiping about them, or sending them away after they sin. Those who sin may not feel any kind of forgiveness for a while. The lack of reconciliation/restoration by the church or attempt to do so may actually hamper it.

Don’t get me wrong – when someone sins, it is their fault. They bear the responsibility before God. But Scripture is clear that when one among us sins, we are to chase after them. If they are unwilling to listen, then that is to be taken into consideration as well.

The final layer his question hit was the essence of his question – “what does God’s forgiveness feel like?

I can tell you what it felt like for me. After months and months of running from God and justifying myself, He humbled me. I cast myself before Him and confessed my sin. I was overwhelmed by His presence and His grace like I had never been before.

It was not merely a theological process. It was an amazing and overpowering feeling of being free of the sin that had been upon me. At first, it hurt. It hurt because I had realized as David did in Psalm 51 that ultimately, I had sinned against God and God alone. My sin had been poured out upon Christ at Calvary. The pain that I felt in my confession was difficult, but necessary.

But that emotion was quickly followed by a sweeping away of my pain and a sudden realization of God’s grace toward me. I was undeserving of it, but in total need of it. He was under no compulsion to grant it to me, but He did. And He loved me. Even a pitiful sinner like me.

forgive2What did it feel like? Like the greatest thing ever. Like a man who had been starving who had just been invited to the banquet table. Like a man who had gone without water for weeks who had just been allowed to drink from a crystal clear stream that would never end.

I won’t lie to you either. There are days I struggle with guilt from the past. Where my old sin likes to creep up and say, “Hey, you’re still worthless. You’re still a fallen pastor who everyone hates.” There are moments when I listen to that voice in my head and it brings me down. There are days when someone will say, “You never really repented. You are still in your sin.

But Christ is there to remind me that I am His, that the sin I committed is gone. And because of Him, I have new life. And there is no one left to condemn me.

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Ray Carroll is author of “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World.”

Do Christians Who Commit Suicide Go To Heaven?

cxsuicRecent events have brought this question to the forefront again. It’s a question that, as a pastor, I was asked pretty frequently. The fact that this question is on the minds of our people should let all of us – pastors, concerned members, church leaders – know that it needs to be addressed and that a clear answer is needed.

I’m going to give an answer that I feel strongly about. But it’s not enough to feel strongly about it, it has to be connected to Scripture.

Let me start with this – I know that many people feel that Christians who commit suicide do end up eternally punished by God. Without mentioning denominations or religions, they have a reason they feel that way. Their arguments are their arguments. It usually has something to do with the person committing a very serious sin without repentance or confession or chance at confession.

The problem is that there is no direct reference to suicide and the fate of Christians who commit it.

So, here’s my humble position. It comes to you from a man who believes in Sovereign grace, a man who was forgiven by God of adultery, a man who was rescued by God from the depths of sin and understands what mercy and grace are.

I also want to say that this topic should always be approached with love and gentleness. Listen, if you are of the belief that Christians who commit suicide spend eternity separated from God and someone who just lost a loved one to suicide asks you about it – do us all a favor and just show some love, grace and common sense. I’m not telling you to tell them what they want to hear. But there is grace to be had in a kind response of, “We can always trust God to do what is right.” And that answer includes, “Even when my theology is wrong.”

I like to anchor my argument in John 10:27-30, where Jesus is speaking of His followers: “My sheep hear my voice, and I sheepknow them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.

When we belong to Christ, we are His. He takes us into His hand, we do not perish and we also belong in the hand of the Father. I’m not even going to address those who want to say, “Does that mean we can sin however much we want after we are saved?” No. Of course not.

There are Christians who sin. I did. I fell. There are a lot of Christians who sin but God does not give up on us. He didn’t give up on the believers in Scripture who fell. The heroes we find in the Old and New Testament who sinned were covered by Christ. God picks us up. He loves us in spite of our sin.

I suppose the opposing argument is, “If we can’t repent, then we die in our sins.” No dice on that one, friend. I suppose if while I was living in adultery without repentance, I would have died in my sin. I would guess that most of us could be caught in some form of sin during the day and that it is unrepentant.

Christ died to justify us. He stood in our place. For all of our sin. Oh, but not for suicide, right? Not for an unconfessed sin we had at the moment of our death. I don’t accept that.

He died so that we didn’t have to live under such judgment. We are to live a holy life, absolutely. But if suicide is the one thing that can do us in, even after we are secure in Christ, then why did He die? What was the cross for? Did He die for our sin or not?

Yes, He covered the sins of Christians once and for all.

It is a tragic thing that some believers get to a point, whether because of depression, mental illness, or circumstance, that they feel suicide is the only way out. But it is not the end of their life.

If you know someone who is suffering, thinking about suicide, contemplating it, giving away their possessions, showing strange or seriously depressive behavior, chase after them. Get them help. Ask for help. Prayer is awesome. Professional help and asking others for intervention is tremendous and necessary.

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Further helps:

Dealing With Suicidal Thoughts & Feelings

How To Help Someone Who Is Suicidal

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Help For Teens – My Friend Is Talking About Suicide

One quick note about Judas – I agree with the majority of commentators that he never was a true follower of Christ. He never bought into Jesus as Messiah and he was the betrayer. Therefore, his demise and ultimate separation is not evidence for everyone who commits suicide.