The other night, my oldest daughter asked me a question I have asked myself a thousand times before. I had asked her to make a Facebook
page for my ministry, which I should have done a long time ago. A few hours later, her teenage mind had been reeling and her kind honesty wanted to know the answer to a very important question.
She has seen me look at the numbers of people who view my blog. She has seen me look at my Amazon numbers and she knows I haven’t made a dime on my book yet. She knows I get several emails a week from people who need help. But she still had a question. And I appreciated it because it was a question that was in the back of my mind. And I’m always thankful when my kids can be honest with me.
“Daddy,” she asked. “I don’t want to be a jerk when I ask you this. And I don’t want this to be a jerky question.” She was sincere. It was about midnight. We were the only ones up. The television was on but there was no sound coming from it. She had set up the Facebook page about five hours before.
In the past five years, she had a front row seat for everything. She was just a child when I had committed adultery and she was the first one to forgive me for my awful sin. She had always loved me – why? Because I was her daddy. She saw me and her mother divorce. She had moved a few times within her community, watched me change, watched me go from a man who was bitter then become repentant then share with her how important it was to rest in the grace of Christ. She had seen me write a book about fallen pastors and form a blog to help those who needed a voice.
Over the years, she had heard me tell of men, women, and church leaders who needed help and had come to me for help. That everyone in this world was broken. That all of us were just a bunch of broken people who desperately needy people who needed Jesus. And in the forefront of those people, I needed Jesus the most.
But the other night, she asked me something that I had been wondering for a few years.
“Daddy, what percentage of this ministry is you helping people and you needing to be popular or needing to be noticed?” she asked.
I needed someone to ask me that. I really did. And I needed to feel what it felt to be asked that. Because if there was any twinge of anger or hurt, then I had a problem. If there was any despair or guilt, then I knew I needed to get help.
For a moment in my mind, I reflected back to my pastoral days. I thought about how much I needed to please people. I’ve written about it so many times on this blog. Numbers were so important to me back then. There were days when 1oo people would show up to that community church and I would feel so happy. Then we would have an August vacation day and we would have 20 people and I would feel do disheartened. I felt like I was doing something wrong.
My response would be to start writing letters or to call people. To reach out and find out if I had done something to offend people. I thought that the church ministry had something to do with me. And that’s where I had failed. I thought church was about me. But it wasn’t. How foolish I was.
So when Abigail asked me that question, I already knew the answer. Because God is always present in giving me the answer.
“Abigail,” I said. “To be honest, there are days in which my wicked heart is prideful in the numbers. My sinful heart is overjoyed with the number of people who view my blog. But those days aren’t very often.”
“Because this ministry isn’t about promoting me. It never has been. Sure, there are days when I get excited that I’ve sold a few books or a few extra people have looked at my blog, but that’s not what this is about.
“I get excited when I get three emails a week from people who need help and reach out to me. But I know that I’m only reaching about five percent of the fallen pastors or people who have been affected by a fall who are out there. There are hundreds or thousands of people out there who need help and I haven’t been able to reach them. I hope they’ve found some other ministry. But I’m here to reach the ones I can.
“When I promote my blog through Twitter, Facebook or other social media, I’m doing it so more people can find me. And when a church, fallen pastor, a woman who has been involved with a pastor, or anyone else can find me finds my blog, I’m overjoyed. Many of those people simply read my blog and find comfort. Some of them just email me and say ‘Thanks for a blog post, it really helped me.’ And that’s all I get. But that’s the ministry I’m called to.
“I did a lot of great things when I was a pastor, but now I feel like I’m doing more effective ministry now than I ever did before. I’m reaching across continents and across the nation to help people. Abigail, you’ve heard me talk to fallen pastors, their wives, their churches, and the women they’ve been involved with. I’ve wept with them. I hurt with them.
“The greatest joy I feel is when I connect with them and they say, ‘No one has understood me like you understand me.‘”
She smiled at me. Then she said, “You’re right. You’re doing a good thing to help a lot of people.”
I said, “You know what really keeps me humble? What God has pride-proofed in to this? What can I really brag about this? What can I say? That I’m the greatest fallen pastor in the world? That I’m here because I committed adultery and I’m here to help people? Who’s going to ever give me an award for that? God has placed me in a position where I can never brag or get the big head. I’m always going to be the man who fell from ministry. I’m always going to be the pastor who fell. The humble pastor who is here to wash the feet of other men who need help.
“That’s what is most important to me. To help the men and women across the world in ministry who are fallen who need help when no one else will help them. I’m the least helping the least.”
That made my daughter smile. And in that moment, I think I could help her understand what ministry is really all about.
Other helpful articles:
3 Word to Encourage Fallen Pastors: Ron Edmonson
Thoughts on a Fallen Pastor: John Gunter
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.