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4 Factors That Lead To Ministry Failure

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, church, church members, fallenness, pastors | Posted on 07-07-2014

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

When it happens, people want to know, “Why did he do it? What was he thinking?I want to list four reasons that will help those looking for answers.

Before I do, I want to make a couple of important remarks. First, the question, “Why did he commit adultery?” is a complex question that requires a complex answer. There’s not going to be an answer that gives anyone complete satisfaction. When I wrote a book where I interviewed other fallen pastors, I was able to identify factors that led to moral failure. But even knowing these things doesn’t bring complete comfort.

It’s also important to know that these points aren’t an excuse or justification for adultery. The ultimate answer for “why do we fall short?” is “because we are sinful people who disobey God.” At some point, when a pastor begins to take his eyes off of God and makes a conscious choice to fall into temptation, the sin is his to own. Sin is behind each of these problems listed below. These are factors that lead up to that point. For more discussions of these points, please search my blog or check out my book.

1. Isolation - Many pastors do not have a strong support system. A lot of pastors don’t even have a close friend. The Fuller Institute reported in a study that 70% of pastors said they did not have someone they considered a close friend. In the ministry, having close friends you can share things with and be accountable to is extremely important. Forming a network of fellow pastors, mentors, and counselors who can help you through tough times is paramount to ministry survival.

It’s also important to know that these points aren’t an excuse or justification for adultery. The ultimate answer for ‘why do we fall short?’ is ‘because we are sinful people who disobey God.’ At some point, when a pastor begins to take his eyes off of God and makes a conscious choice to fall into temptation, the sin is his to own.”

2. Poor Marriage Relationship – I know a lot of pastors who have a wonderful relationship with their spouse and family. I’m also involved in this ministry now to help pastors who are in trouble, fallen pastors, their wives, women who have had affairs with pastors, and church leaders and members. I’ve learned that there are many troubled ministry marriages out there. A Francis Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership study reported that 77% of pastors said they did not have a good marriage. The same report said that 30% of them reported they had either been in an ongoing affair or a one-time sexual encounter with a parishoner. A poor marriage is one of the strongest indicators that ministry failure is imminent.

3. Overly High ExpectationsI recently wrote a blog about high expectations. Pastors should have high expectations. They have normal expectations for carrying out their job duties. They should be expected to have high moral character. But there are times when churches can expect too much. The Schaeffer report I quoted said that 71% stated they were burned out and they battle depression beyond fatigue on a weekly and even a daily basis. Extreme expectations can come from within or without, but if failure is to be prevented, communication must take place between the pastor and the leadership.

4. Judgmentalism/Pride – A lot of pastors who fall have a big problem with either judgmentalism and/or pride. The problem of judmentalism is not that the pastor understands what sin is and recognizes it. It is when he angrily demands control over every situation in a heavy-handed manner and without grace. Prideful pastors are those who demand their way and will rarely listen to counsel. The pulpit and position of pastor build them up and make them feel important instead of humble.

This ministry exists to help anyone who has experienced failure, or anyone on the brink of it. No matter who you are and how you’ve been affected, we will listen. You may feel broken and alone, but you’re not.

*All statistics can be found in my book.

Other helpful articles:

Why Pastors Fall Into Sin,” by Jack Frost

7 Steps to Avoid Sexual Sin and Stay in Ministry,” by Dustin Neeley

5 Reasons Ministers Are (More) Vulnerable to Sexual Temptation,” by Jeff Fisher

Seven Warning Signs of Affairs for Pastors and Other Church Staff,” by Thom S. Rainer

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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.

5 Blogs Worth Checking Out

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in blog, blogs, blogs worth reading | Posted on 05-07-2014

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I love writing. And I love reading informative blogs – even ones that challenge me. Here are 5 blogs that I have enjoyed blog44reading that I think are well-written and are worth your attention.

1. Think – It’s a collaboration of authors, “thinkers and writers who are passionate about the Church, and who enjoy spending time wrestling with deep theological questions and helping others to engage with them.” (from their site) They write on the cutting edge of theology.

Look, if you’re seeking out some kind of blog to agree with you, forget it. But if you’re looking for people of like mind who will challenge you along, go for it. Here’s a good place to start: “Will More People Be Saved Than Not?” by Andrew Wilson

2. Practical Shepherding – This site is for pastors from all backgrounds. If you’re looking for practical articles and help on things they didn’t teach you in bible college, this is your site. A good post to start with: “How does a pastor deal with ‘Carnal Christians’ in his church?” by Brian Croft

3. Thoughts from Fabs – Listen, if you want down to earth application from what God is saying, look no further. This blog is written by a person who understands difficulty and writes transparently. Great for everyone who wants someone to relate with. Great post to start with: “Car Stereos and Gifted People

4. Solacetree by Joy Wilson – Joy is a great person and writes about prayer, living and other topics. She writes a lot of poetry inspired by her meditation time with God. She holds a workshop on prayer and also has a book on the topic you’ll want to get. Here’s a great place to start: “How To Know We’re Hearing From God, pt. 1

5. Reclaiming the Mission, David Fitch – Site dedicated to churches and pastors – hoping to make a healthy church in our day. Memorable post to check out: “The Caffeine Free Diet Coke: A Metaphor For Evangelicalism 4 Years Later” by David Fitch

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

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

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

4 Common Reactions To A Fallen Pastor

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

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The day comes out of nowhere and the news hits everyone hard. Everyone learns that the sadpastor has committed adultery. Or, for that matter, they’ve discovered he’s embezzled or been lying about something horrible.

There are a myriad of reactions from many types of people. I was a pastor and I fell when I committed adultery. I had kept it secret for a few months, but you can’t sin under wraps forever. What I knew then about the reactions of people is different from what I know now.

I’ve learned something very important over the years – one of the most important things anyone can do is listen to what people are saying. When a pastor falls, the most important thing a church can do is listen. If we don’t listen, we can’t communicate. If we aren’t listening to the real hurt and concern of the people around us, we will never get to a place where we understand one another.

baptismEveryone has the right to react and feel hurt. Everyone has the right to feel disappointment in the person they listened to, trusted and loved.

I remember when I was writing my book, I was still having anger toward people who were lashing out at me about what I did. One of the most helpful conversations I had was with Dr. Hershael York who basically told me, “Ray, you don’t get the right to get angry with those people when they lash out in anger. You’re the one who committed adultery. You put them in that position. Even if their anger is unbiblical, which they’ll have to answer for, you need to keep silent. That’s part of being humble.

He was right. Now I’d like to share with you some of the things I’ve heard from people over the past few years as I’ve listened to many different people who have been through this. I’m writing them so that we can see the larger picture. Once everything comes out, where do we go? Remember that a lot of things said in the first few days of discovery are said in anger or disappointment:

Reaction #1: Church Members:

Church member #1: “I can’t believe it. He baptized my kids. I trusted him. How could he do this? I guess it goes to show you that you can’t trust anyone.

Church member #2: “I never trusted him anyway. That’s horrible. His wife should leave him Pastor Holding Bibleright away. He has got to be fired right now. He’s probably been doing this for years.

Reaction #2: Church Leaders:

Church leader #1: “You know, we could just sweep this under the rug. Surely we can do damage control on this. If this gets out, it could hurt the church.

Church leader #2: “He’s done. This is an embarrassment. He needs to type a letter of resignation now and we have got to move on as quickly as possible.

Church leader #3: “He’s in trouble and I don’t like what he did. He can’t stay on here as pastor, but we do have a responsibility to help him and his family. Let’s go talk to him. I’m not sure what we can do, but let’s see if we can get him and his wife some help.

Reaction #3: Pastors in the Community:

Community pastor#1: “Wow. I never thought he would do that. Goes to show you it can happen to anyone.

Community pastor #2: “What a disappointment. He just makes us all look bad.

Community pastor #3: “I need to call him. I don’t know what I can do, but I can at least reach out.

Reaction #4: The Fallen Pastor:

The pastor #1: “I cannot believe this is happening. I don’t know how I got here. I mean, I know how I got here. But, I don’t know what to do now. I’m about to lose everything. It’s all my fault. I need help.

The pastor, reaction #2: “I’m done. I’m getting all these angry calls. I’m leaving anyway. I don’t want to have anything to do with church or any of this. My marriage has been awful and I’m leaving. No one can stop me.

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

The pastor, reaction #3: “I got caught. I know I did something wrong. Maybe I can get a little counseling and get back to ministry soon.”

There are a lot of different reactions. Not everyone is on the same page and every member, leader and pastor has a different set of dynamics. The pastor has sinned and is responsible to face the consequences.

Here at Fallen Pastor, I do two things. First, I listen to people who approach me with questions. If they want advice, I give it. When a fallen pastor contacts me, I help. I’ve heard from all three of those types of pastors I listed above. I listen to them. And I love on them. I let them know that life isn’t over. I want them to be reconciled to Christ. I tell them that I will stand with them and help them get back on their feet.

Sometimes, they don’t listen to what I have to say. Sometimes they just want the answer to one or two questions and I never hear from them again. And that’s okay too.

But what I also do is help churches be aware that the fallen pastor needs help. His family needs help. I know that’s a tall order. I do. He just got caught sinning. He messed up royally. He has brought a dark cloud to rest on the church. People in the community will be gossiping for months about this.

Then we come to Galatians 6:1 where we are told to restore people. Not to the pulpit – but to Reconciling With A Fallen Pastor, Part 2: Stages Of The FallChrist. We are to restore people when they fall. Know what we are to do when someone sins? Help them out of the pit they’ve dug for themselves.

In the beginning, it sure is hard. We are hurt, angry and want to put that person as far away from us as possible.

And the guys who get tossed to the side after they sin – I’ve talked to them too. Years after they fell, they are in a really bad place. Some might say, “Good, they deserve it.” Know what? We all deserve it. And I will never argue that a fallen pastor shouldn’t face up to the consequences he sowed. He will for the rest of his life.

What I am calling for is the Christian community to do what they can to restore people who sin. Restore them to Christ. And if you need help, reach out. We’re here. If you can’t do it yourself, find someone who can.

Some related articles to help your current pastor:

5 Ways to Pray For Your Pastor” by Nicholas Batzig

Pray For Your Pastor!” by Tim Challies

20 Ways To Encourage Your Pastor” by Dennis Rainey

10 Ways to Help Your Pastor” by Kevan Bartlett

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

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

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

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

 

3 Sources of High Expectations For Pastors

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in church leadership, church members, churches, culture, expectations, pastoring, pastors | Posted on 02-07-2014

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A 2001 Barna study shared the following information: “Church-goers expect their pastor to juggle an average of 16 major tasks. That’s a recipe for failure – nobody can handle the wide range of responsibilities that people expect pastors to master.”

That was one of the most interesting statistics I found while doing research for my book, Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World. That statistic reflects what I believe many pastors feel is the cause of killer expectations – the congregation or a controlling group of church leaders. What I discovered in writing was that blaming one side was incompatible with what was really going on in today’s churches.

Before I wrote my book, I thought I knew a lot about high expectations for pastors. I had practical experience, but it was nothing compared to what I learned after studying statistics and interviewing fallen pastors. If a pastor does not understand expectations rightly, misconstrues them, or does not have the right center, he stands the danger of burnout or worse.

Expectations come from many places. First, there are congregational expectations. What does the congregation expect out of their pastor? What did the pulpit committee tell the pastor when he was hired? Have those expectations changed as the church has grown or declined in attendance? Does the church setting make a difference? Is the church’s set of expectations based on Scripture, bylaws or any written standard that can be measured quantitatively? Do church expectations come from a leadership council or the entire congregation?

“Any idea outside of Scripture attributed to the pastor should be discussed and agreed upon between pastor and church leadership. Any unspoken or assumed expectations can be harmful for both parties.”

All of these questions can help sort out where congregational expectations come from. I had a friend in seminary who pastored a rural church that voted on whether to keep him every year. It had been in the bylaws since a pastor had fallen over six decades earlier. I know of churches who pass out pastoral satisfaction surveys on occasion.

Secondly, expectations also come from within the pastor. These are typically the strongest expectations pastors wrestle with. Pastors who are perfectionists are rarely satisfied with the job they are doing. These men often work long hours with the idea in mind that they are never quite fulfilling every need in the church. Somewhere in their brain, they perceive unmet needs among the congregation that they could be fixing or making better. They are hard workers, but without a system of realistic and Scriptural expectations, these men experience tremendous burnout.

perfectPastors can experience several things that can warp their view of expectations upon them. One is pastoral competition or self-competition. A lot of guys love to talk about numbers. When pastors meet, (they might not admit it) they intrinsically measure success by the number of people in their congregation or total budgets.

While many give lip-service to the idea that, “I’d be happy preaching to one person each Sunday,” there seems to be an innate drive to move forward to the next big thing. Even if they aren’t comparing numbers with other pastors, a lot of young pastors are taught a business model of church where moving on to the next big position is just a natural progression.

Of course, this isn’t always true. There are always exceptions and we all know of men who are content with the congregations they serve. The point is that this drive from without or within can lead to a warped view of success and high expectations.

The third place expectations come is from God. This is where high proper expectations should come from. God has a high expectation for those He calls. 1 Timothy 3:1-7 is the most common passage quoted when listing the moral qualifications for an overseer:  “If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.” (ESV)

There is discussion over some of the specific ideas in this passage, but for the most part, it is agreed that God expects His leaders to have a certain level of morality and moral leadership. Ultimately, God’s standard is the greatest standard. Any idea outside of Scripture attributed to the pastor should be discussed and agreed upon between pastor and church leadership. Any unspoken or assumed expectations can be harmful for both parties.

The warped view of high expectations (whether from congregations, from within, or both) can be seen in one of two examples, although there are surely more.

If congregations or leadership have expectations that are too high, unspoken, or unrealistic for the pastor, he can become frustrated in his duties. Despite his normal duties of teaching and preaching, he can become overwhelmed with a myriad of other tasks. He can become party to this as well if he takes on tasks without asking for help or communicating clearly to his people. Pastors who believe they can or should do everything will experience a large amount of frustration, leading to potential burnout.

Sometimes, churches are unaware they are adding to these high expectations. Many people mean well or are unsure of how to approach the pastor but can say things that come across as hurtful to the pastor: “Our old pastor didn’t do it like that,” “You only work one day a week, surely you can do more,” “Why haven’t you visited more people?” “There sure haven’t been many people here lately.” People often mean well or aren’t thinking when they make statements like this, but need to be aware of the weight their words carry. Most pastors spend all week concentrating on the church and the duties he performs and takes his job very seriously.

High expectations happen to everyone, but understanding their source is of great importance. Pastoral/Church communication about correct expectations can prevent church disappointment, pastoral burnout but can also promote proper church health and focus on Christ’s community and everyone’s role within it.

Other helpful articles about pastor expectations:

How Many Hours Must a Pastor Work to Satisfy the Congregation?” by Thom Rainer

What Are Pastors Supposed to Do For You?” by Mark D. Roberts

Your Pastor is Only Human! Here’s What He Wants You To Know” by Tim Franklin

Look at These Expectations on a Pastor’s Time. Then Take a Day Off.” by Trend Watch

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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.

God’s Punishment vs. Consequences of Sin

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, consequences, forgiveness, God, guilt, punishment, sin | Posted on 30-06-2014

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This is a heavy post.

Let me start it with an example from the life of a fallen pastor. This is a real question I’ve been asked, and asked myself. godpunishAs a fallen pastor, after I’ve been forgiven of my adultery, will God continue to punish me for the sin I’ve committed? Will He bring horrible calamities my way (cancer, sickness to my children) in the form of punishment as well as me facing the normal consequences of my sin (church people being angry, child support, pastors who ignore me, etc.)?

They are two different things to be considered. God’s punishment for our sin and the consequences for our sin. When I counsel fallen pastors or women who have been with fallen pastors, these are two things that come up in conversation very frequently.

Honestly, it took me a long time to come to a biblical answer on my own, so please bear with me. I will quote Scripture and the work of others in this matter because it is such an important issue.

Consequences

Let’s look at consequences first. When we sin, we own it. It is ours to bear. In Psalm 51, David acknowledged his sin before God after committing adultery with Bathsheba and murdering her husband. He asked for repentance and to be clean before God. This is so important for any Christian who has sinned. We must come to a place of repentance before God. Our sin is against God. We must answer to Him for what we have done.

Let’s liken it to a courtroom. Let’s say we have been brought before a judge for the felony of grand theft auto. We might stand before the judge and say, “Judge, I am guilty of this charge. I repent of my actions and I throw myself upon the mercy of the court.” Does that mean we will get off without a penalty?

It reminds me of the scene in “Oh, Brother Where Art Thou” when Delmar had just been baptized and thought that his baptism had cleared him of all civil wrongdoing, including a Piggly Wiggly he had robbed:

Pete: The preacher said he absolved us.

Everett: For him. Not for the law. I’m surprised at you Pete. I gave you credit for more brains than Delmar.

Delmar: But they was witnesses that seen us redeemed.

Everett: That’s not the issue Delmar. Even if it did put you square with the Lord, the state of Mississippi’s a little more hardnosed.

hammersThe problem is that even though a sinner is repentant, washed clean by Christ, we have to face the consequences of our actions. I know that after I committed adultery, there were many consequences to what I had done that I still face today.

Are those consequences the same as punishment? Here’s a quote from A. W. Pink, courtesy of Eric T. Young:

But while the believer’s sins cannot be punished, while the Christian cannot be condemned (Rom. 8:3), yet he may be chastised. The Christian occupies an entirely different position from the non-Christian: he is a member of the Family of God. The relationship which now exists between him and God is that of parent and child; and as a son he must be disciplined for wrongdoing. Folly is bound up in the hearts of all God’s children, and the rod is necessary to rebuke, to subdue, to humble.

When we lie, there will be consequences. When we gossip, consequences will come. When we commit any type of sin, there will be God-wrought consequences. They are a form of discipline. They may last long after we repent. We reap what we sow, friends. And when we do, the best thing we can do is to meet those consequences face to face with grace and humility, knowing that we cause the initial calamity, praying that overcoming the consequences will bring about glory to God in our sanctification.

Punishment

What about punishment? Over the years, I’ve heard a lot of fallen people say, “I’ve repented of my sin, but I can’t help but think that my newborn child died because of my adultery,” or “I repented, but my new business/ministry failed because God was judging me because of my past sin. Is He still punishing me?”

I can’t give you a clear answer to every question, but I can turn to the Scriptures and help guide you along.

The best guideline is Romans 8:1-2, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” But we must realize that for this promise is for those who repent. Christians who live in a constant state of disobedience and unrepentance are in a difficult place.

Romans 6 tells us of the life we live free from sin and also the life lived within sin: “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:22-23 ESV)

Unrepentant sin leads to punishment. Scripture is clear on that. It is punishment plus consequences. The beauty of it all is that when we confess our sin and turn from it, God casts that sin as far as the east is from the west and remembers it no eastwestmore (Psalm 103:12). We still have to deal with the earthly consequences of our sin. That is the hole we have dug for ourselves. But we are free from the punishment that sin brings to bear upon us.

What are we to do? If you’re a fallen pastor, or a sinner who is living continually in sin, repent. Cast off that sin by confessing it to God. Find someone close to you with whom you can be accountable to and with whom you can share this with. You will need support and mentoring. Do no do this alone. Do not stand under the punishment of God.

Next, after you have repented, understand that you are free. God has forgiven you. When tragedy strikes, it is not the hand of God reaching down to punish you for your previous sins. He has cast that sin away. There may be consequences for your sin for a long time – people treating you poorly, financial payments, broken relationships – but know that horrible events in your life are not acts of God reaching out to punish you for past sins.

Once you have repented and have been forgiven, you are forgiven. Isaiah 43:25, “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” Isaiah 1:18, “Come now, let us reason together,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.”

To tie it up with a personal example, when I committed adultery as a pastor, I was not repentant. I was therefore, under the divine judgment of God. He was free to punish me – He was my Heavenly Father and I was His follower. I was way out of line and not following His commands. My own actions and behaviors were enough punishment, but He was free to punish me further.

When I repented of my sins (under the divine influence of His Spirit), He forgave me of my sin. At that moment, my sin was forgiven. Were the consequences of my adultery gone? No. I still had many people who were upset with me, many broken relationships, and a long road of restoration ahead. The consequences still surround me today because of the sin I committed. But God is with me as I travel down that road, working all things together for His glory.

You are forgiven when you turn to God and repent. Consequences may follow, but they are not the same as divine punishment. Face the consequences with grace and take each day with a step toward the holiness of God, knowing “after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” 1 Peter 5:10.

Other helpful articles:

The Judgments: Past, Present, and Future – J. Hampton Keathley III (while I do not completely agree with his eschatology, his insights to this present topic are astounding)

Punishment vs. Consequence – Tony J. Alicea, Living in the Tension

What’s the Difference Between Punishment, Consequences, Discipline, Training, and Instruction – Brad Hambrick

Does God Punish Us When We Sin? – God Questions.org

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

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

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

 

Fallen Pastors: Three Very Common Questions

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

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I love helping (and am always more than happy to help) anyone who contacts me through this fallingministry, but I am closest to the messed up, confused world of the freshly fallen pastor. And it is a horrible place to be. I tell fallen pastors, “No one really understands fallen ministers like a fellow fallen minister.”

One of the most confusing things for people on the outside looking in is the messed up morality of a fallen pastor. Here’s the deal – when a guy has committed adultery for a while and hasn’t been caught, he’s not thinking clearly or biblically. And when he gets caught, he’s going to try to justify and excuse his behavior any way he can. Often, he will use Scripture to justify his sin. I tried it. It even sounded good to me at the time. But it was wrong.

To everyone else, it sounds rotten. It is rotten. That’s why I always tell people to be kind and patient with a fallen pastor. Don’t let him twist the truth, but do show him compassion. Understand that he is going to come around eventually. He is living the life of the prodigal son – one day he’s going to wake up and smell the pig droppings. And when he does, he’s going to need people who care about him.

I want to answer a couple of the most frequently messed up questions I get from fallen pastors today (I introduced this issue in my last post). The answers will seem pretty obvious. But that’s just it – when you’re waist deep in the crud of sin, the answers aren’t obvious because we aren’t looking for truth.

You know what’s even more troubling? I get these same questions from church leaders who want to ignore the sin of their pastor because they don’t want the church’s reputation to suffer damage. They would rather hide the pastor’s affair (even though his wife knows), tell the woman he had an affair with to move on (because she’s usually a church member or member of the staff) and sweep it under the rug so that the church isn’t traumatized. I’m just gonna tell you that a decision like that always comes back to haunt a church and those involved.

quesr2So here are the most common messed up questions I get – questions I even considered when I wasn’t thinking clearly when I was mired in my sin.

1. “God has forgiven me, so why do I need to tell the church/my wife what I’ve done?”

God is a God of forgiveness. That is clear. He does cast our sin as far as the east is from the west. I am thankful for the amazing grace that God has shown to us by His Son Jesus Christ.

I blogged a little about this question before but want to give the response clearly again. If you are a church leader and you have committed adultery, you should ask God for forgiveness. But you also have a duty to tell your church and leaders.

When you were hired, voted in, appointed by a council – you were given the position of head elder/pastor and expected to fulfill the duties of 1 Timothy 3:1-13. Those people put their trust in you. They expected you to be faithful to your calling and be a person above reproach. When we commit a major sin, we violate their trust. When we violate their trust, we need to let them know and we have come under church discipline.

The same goes for our spouse. We took a vow. And even if we commit “emotional adultery,” there is something wrong in our marriage that needs to be fixed right away. If it doesn’t get fixed, we are going to do it again. Our spouse deserves to know that we violated our vow and that we have become vulnerable to sin.

2. “I committed adultery/had an emotional affair with a woman in the church. sorrycoupIt’s okay if she stays at the same church as I do, right?”

When guys ask me this question, I know a couple of things. First, they are in trouble spiritually and morally. They are not thinking clearly. Why? Because they think they are/or may actually be in love with the woman they are having an affair with. They cannot stand being apart from her. They don’t want to be away from her.

Second, if at this point a pastor has “only” admitted to an “emotional affair” and he asks this question – I can almost bank on the fact that he has crossed the line into the physical but he’s just not being forthcoming about it.

The big problem is this – if a man has been caught and he’s saying all the “right” things like, “I know I’ve sinned and I want to make things right with my wife.” But his actions are saying, “I still want to be around this woman and I’m still texting her and talking to her,” then what he’s saying and what he’s doing are two different things. He’s not repentant. He’s still trapped.

Listen carefully though. I have a tremendous amount of concern for the woman the pastor has been involved with. I think churches should have the same amount of concern, especially if she is a member or a part of the staff.

Back to the issue at hand. Pastor, if you have committed adultery and you want your marriage to work out, you’ve got to distance yourself permanently from the person you were with. End of story. On top of that, you have to be transparent for a long time with your wife about your cell phone, email, Facebook and anything else you have passwords on. Give her access to everything. It’s freedom. It one step back towards trust.

repenta3. “I’ll be okay pretty quick, right? I won’t be out the ministry very long.”

When you get caught, what you need is to be restored to Christ. Something went wrong. Lots of somethings. I write about it on this blog and in my book. Those things need to be fixed before any kind of ministry can ever happen again. A life of brokenness and humility need to occur while God restores you.

This doesn’t happen overnight. It doesn’t happen in a few weeks. If you’re lucky, it might happen in a year. It happens in God’s timing.

But when you’re honest about your sin and how you came to it, God will be longsuffering and will heal your heart. It’s not easy being honest, but it is rewarding. It’s tough, but it is the narrow road for those who want peace.

Want to leave a comment? Click the “keep reading” button and join the conversation.

Other helpful links:

Sexual Sin in the Ministry” by Harry Schaumburg, Desiring God Ministries

Pastors on Moral Failures in Church Leadership: Don’t Hide It” by Lillian Kwon, Christian Post

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

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

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

Book Review: A First-Hand Look At Pastor Restoration

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pastors and NyQuil Addiction

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in burnout, pastors, self-medication, stress | Posted on 23-06-2014

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Some of you might be laughing at the title of this post. But some of you know exactly what I’m talking about. It might not be NyQuil. It might be Tylenol PM every night to help you sleep. Or Dramamine. Or Benadryl.

nyquilI remember when I was pastoring – it was about the third year – I was under a lot of stress. I wasn’t sleeping well, so I started taking Tylenol PM or the Kroger brand to help me sleep. It helped for a while. Then it stopped working. So I upped the dose. I really didn’t think anything of it.

That year, I went to a pastor retreat and I heard Pastor Roger Barrier and his wife give a message about pastors, stress, and burnout. Out of nowhere, they mentioned pastors taking Tylenol PM. Here was a man who made a living counseling pastors and he had hit me square in the face with a “warning sign” of burnout. At the time, I really didn’t think much of it.

Let’s fast forward for a moment. I’ve been helping fallen pastors for about five years now. In a lot of the stories I hear, the ministers were dealing with their stress and burnout in a lot of different ways. But many times, they were self-medicating. Some were taking night-time sleep aids, some were drinking NyQuil, and some had started drinking.

Now for some honesty on my part. In the last couple of years of my pastorate, I had started drinking. I wasn’t a blazing alcoholic. In fact, I had never touched the stuff before I had become a pastor. But, like a lot of pastors I talk to, I was self-medicating. I wasn’t drinking every day. I would do it at night, a couple of nights a week. Why? To relieve stress – that’s what I was telling myself.

What I understand now is that it wasn’t the way to handle my stress. All it was doing was putting off the stress so I wasn’t having to deal with it in a responsible manner.

When I talk to pastors now who are struggling, that’s what I tell them. Sometimes, they feel that during a week of stress and ministry, conflict and dealing with personalities, they just break down and feel the need to relax. Yeah, it’s addiction. It is a huge warning sign that something is wrong with the way they are handling life and ministry.

I guarantee it started small for them. And I know that right now, there are pastors out there self-medicating. They’re telling themselves, “I just use the NyQuil (or whatever) to help me go to sleep after a tough day.” It’s an accessible thing. You don’t have to go into a liquor store to buy it. Same with the pills. But it’s something we take to push away the pain for a while.

All this being said, when we get to that point, we need to understand that it’s time to reach out for help. It’s time to restructure our schedule, our support network, our accountability. Does it necessarily mean you’re going to fail in ministry? Not at all. But it does mean that we are attempting to create a sort of artificial peace apart from Christ. It also means that there may be something wrong with the way we are doing ministry.

And it also means we need to do what it takes to get help before it gets worse.

Some helpful links and articles:

Addiction and Self-Medication” From Pastoral Meanderings by Pastor Peters

Self-Medication – Self-Control” by Dave Rodriguez

Self-Care or Self-Medication: Which Path Are You On?” by Carey Nieuwhof (includes helpful tips for self-care)

Online Help For Over the Counter Drug Addiction

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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.

Five More Blogs Worth Reading

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in blog, blogs, blogs worth reading | Posted on 20-06-2014

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I love blogging and I love reading great blogs. I’ve suggested some great blogs before , some more, and then a few more. Here are five more that I highly recommend.

1. Stuff Christians LikeJon Acuff has Christian humor down well. He’s got hilarious content and he’s well known for blogg3what he does. Just go check it out. A good and recent post to start with: 3 Ways To Avoid Getting Tricked Into Volunteering For VBS.

2. Adam McLaneAdam writes about youth ministry, church life, tech stuff, and life. He’s published a couple of studies that you definitely need to check out. Here’s a good post to start with that definitely caught my eye: “When Should I Allow My Children to Get a Social Media Account?

3. A Deeper Story – This site is a compilation of articles from authors of so many talents and backgrounds. Here is a good description from their own site: “We believe that if we’re honest, vulnerable and brave when we tell our stories, that those stories can build bridges across ideologies, advocate for the least of these, and proclaim the Kingdom of God breaking in on earth every day.” There is so much depth there, you’ll find something to love. Here’s a good post to start with: “The Final Word” by Sarah Markley

4. Thom Rainer – Dr. Rainer is the CEO of LifeWay Resources and an excellent writer and a great person. He has a big heart for pastors and for the church. He’s the author of many helpful books that you’ll want to check out. Here’s a recent blog post that’s a great place to start: “Seven Ways to Hurt Your Pastor

5. Patheos – Mark Roberts – I had the pleasure and honor of interviewing Dr. Roberts for my book. He gave me some great insights that have helped many. He is the author of several books that are worth your time. At Patheos, you’ll find him writing about all kinds of topics – from current events to posts with practical or theological insight. Good place to start: “Want to Live Long and Prosper? Have a Purpose for Your Life

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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.

Abandonment, Unconditional Surrender, and Peace

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in David White, guest blog | Posted on 18-06-2014

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Another guest blog today by my friend David e White. Make sure you check out his bio info below and go by his blog. Thanks again, David.

Today was a tough day. It got off to a rough start of heated discussion, where I was not at my best, following an extraordinarily full weekend where I emerged exhausted. Having said this, the past few months have been difficult as well. One of the complications over this season has been a slump in business, which has created negative impacts in finances (is it a good idea to tell the people that you serve that you are afraid of going broke?).

despairFinances are not the worst of the situation however, for as I confessed in my last post, I have an addiction to validation, so business slump also lands me in the land of employment neurosis (check out Viktor Frankl & Man’s Search for Meaning), wherein I begin to feel that I am useless and then life becomes meaningless – grand despair. This is dangerous ground for someone who has fallen, for coping mechanisms shout loudly to advertise momentary relief.

Naturally I would like to avoid despair. It is the lowest of all emotions and it has no bottom. Having said this, I note a paradoxical sense of peace when I begin to contemplate an unconditional surrender to God, and (dare I say?) let myself feel the despair.

Not quite ready for unconditional surrender this morning, I put on my hiking boots and my heavy pack and launched into an 18 km trek. I wrestled with my mind for most of the journey, but found myself reflecting on a passage in Lamentations (3: 25-33), and I returned with a deepened perspective (along with two blisters):

God proves to be good to the man who passionately waits, to the woman who diligently seeks. It’s a good thing to quietly hope, quietly hope for help from God. It’s a good thing when you’re young to stick it out through the hard times. When life is heavy and hard to take, go off by yourself. Enter the silence. Bow in prayer. Don’t ask questions: Wait for hope to appear. Don’t run from trouble. Take it full-face. The “worst” is never the worst.”

Why?”

Because the Master won’t ever walk out and fail to return. If he works severely, he also works tenderly. His stockpiles of loyal love are immense. He takes no pleasure in making life hard, in throwing roadblocks in the way…” (MSG)

The specific phrase that kept replaying in my head is recorded in the New Living Translation as: “…no one is abandoned by the Lord forever.”

For someone who wrestles with validation and has been deeply wounded through abandonment in the past, the thought of being abandoned by God did not sit well with me at first. Yet, I come to experience a paradoxical peace, as I contemplate what I know of God’s character. While experiencing the feelings of despair, the peace begins to emerge as I make my decision to be abandoned — abandoned to my Creator God – for He is worthy, and He is trustworthy.

I am noticing that despair strips away my hope for salvation in any other form and I am left with but one hope: God and God alone. Being abandoned to God is simple, though not easy. It is unconditional surrender, on my knees, with empty hands.

What hope for salvation/restoration/reconciliation do you hold out for? Are you ready to be abandoned?

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About David e White:

I have over 20 years of executive leadership experience, but I’ve also been a laborer, salesperson, manager, and consultant – even a professional musician! I have experienced the thrill of rapid growth and prosperity, but also the pain of downsizing and recession. I have been the leader who made the magic happen – I’ve made the tough decisions – I have also been the guy that got blown up by decisions made by others, and even a few I made on my own. Through it all I have learned how to be resilient and thrive in the aftermath of both scenarios.

I write, speak and coach in the area of leadership and organizational resilience. My content is anchored in the bedrock of core values, and I have come to appreciate that grace and love are wonderful gifts.  I work to inspire, encourage and equip leaders with principles for resilience. Principles that enable you to persevere adapt and excel through life’s challenges, change, uncertainty and crisis.

I would be delighted to have you as a companion on this journey. I post weekly at www.davidewhite.ca.

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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.