Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in fallenness, family, forgiveness, Hershael York, Uncategorized | Posted on 08-10-2013
Over the past four years as I’ve ministered to fallen pastors like myself, I’ve had the opportunity to listen to how different families 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?”
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.
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 of 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?”
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.
Are you a fallen pastor, burned out pastor, pastor on the brink or a church that has gone through a tough time? You might start out by reading, “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World.” There are a lot of things in there that will help pastors prevent ministry failure and a lot of things to help pastors after they fall. There are also helps for churches whose pastors have fallen.
Need more help than that? Feel free to contact the author of this blog and the book, Ray Carroll. He’d love to talk to you. Anything you say will be kept confidential.