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What Is Ministry?

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in ministry | Posted on 11-08-2014

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I’ve had a lot of questions asked of me over the past few years. Fallen pastors ask me a lot, “Is God done with me? Will I ever be worthy pewsenough to do some kind of ministry?” (Short answers, no and yes.)

Then, I’ve had a chance to reflect on what I used to do as a pastor and what I do now, helping fallen pastors and those affected by moral failure in the church. And it has come down to one question: “What is ministry?

When I was pastoring, I think I equated ministry with working hard, studying the Bible, visiting, baptizing, putting in new programs, and making sure everyone was relatively happy. And those things can lead to ministry. But I’ve learned that in themselves, they aren’t ministry.

In the same way, I can blog, answer emails, Twitter, and write. Those things can lead to some form of ministry, but in and of themselves, they aren’t necessarily ministry.

As a pastor, I did a lot of things to “punch the clock” and put in my time. I wrote letters, made visits, preached sermons, taught Sunday School, and a lot of other tasks. Tasks. Lots of ministry is task oriented. When Jesus washed the feet of the disciples, he was doing a task. But at some point, it became ministry.

When do our tasks become ministry? Better yet, how can we ensure that our tasks are ministry and not just fool’s errands with no spiritual value?

I knew a little back in the day but it never really registered until I started helping other fallen pastors. It wasn’t until I was on the phone with these men, weeping with them, letting them know that life wasn’t over, telling them that Christ really did love them, that despite their sin, God heals and restores the repentant. It was about instilling hope.

It wasn’t any hope I had to offer, but the hope that Christ gives us because we belong to Him. That despite our worst failures, His grace covers our sin. The future may look bleak because of what we’ve done, but when we fall at His feet, we find that all ground is level at the foot of the cross.

And that’s where I found a definition of ministry. Ministry is being able to be Christ for a person when they need it the most. I’m not talking about having a God-complex in ministry. I’m talking about believers having Christ within us and being the servants we are called to be. And at the moment we are needed, we speak the compassion, love and truth of Christ into the life of the person who needs it most.

When I was task-oriented, I got tired of “ministry.” But that wasn’t ministry. It was errand running. But now, I find myself being able to speak the love and truth into the lives of people who need hope.

When those moments happen, I find myself in love with ministry. Ministry like I never knew it before. The ministry I was called to. A life of giving everything we have to Christ so He can love the people in this world and show them His love.

Other helpful links:

Ministry Means Service,” Grace Communion International

What is Ministry?” by Scot McKnight

What is Ministry?” from JP’s Mind

____________________________

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, J. R. Briggs’ “Fail”

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in book review, ministry | Posted on 09-08-2014

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failJ. R. Briggs’ book, “Fail,” (IVP, Praxis) is a work that I know will help many pastors, ministers, and men who visit this blog. It’s a book about ministry failure. More specifically, it examines failure in the light of our unrealistic views of success in modern ministry. Further, Briggs speaks to the heart of failed, broken ministers to guide and encourage them back to restoration.

Brigg’s publisher sent me a copy for review. Since that time, he’s been interviewed by Ed Stetzer for Christianity Today, Patheos, Rachel Held Evans, Lockerdome, and many others. I don’t know what I can add that these excellent bloggers might have missed.

I’m a simple pastor who fell five years ago in adultery. That’s what this blog is all about. Every week I get two to three emails from fallen pastors, their wives, their mistresses, or their churches asking how to put the pieces back together again. I wrote a book about it four years ago trying to understand moral failure. Since that time, I’ve been eagerly searching for any help out there. I’ve been looking for people I can network with, resources, counselors, or people with like minds.

J. R. Briggs’ book is a resource I can trust and recommend to any fallen pastor.

When this book was suggested to me, it went straight to the top of my reading list. This site is dedicated to helping ministers and pastors who have fallen and failed because of moral issues. For the past five years, I have been looking for any allies who understand the process. There are a little pockets of people who truly understand ministry failure, but they are scattered throughout the country.

While I was reading, “Fail,” I found a brother in arms who understood failure. Briggs notes that his focus is not on one kind of failure. His own failure was due to high expectations. Instead, he focuses on the dearth of ministry failure and those who suffer from it. My own ministry focuses so much on moral failure that I had never taken time to consider ministry failure in general. The symptoms, causes, fallout, and restoration of both are almost identical.

Briggs writes about ministry failure as a man who understands it. He is practical and yet gritty when he needs to be. It’s a gritty topic that some people can’t handle, some push off into the corner, and a lot of people don’t want to understand. The reason the topic is avoided is because there are so many tough issues tied to ministry failure: Shame, church expectations, burnout, bitterness, and frustration with God. But Briggs tackles each of these issues and gives them theological, Scriptural, and personal consideration. He does it in a way that the failed briggsminister will find immediate comfort in the words of one who understands.

Here’s the game-breaker for me. Briggs’ understanding of shame. If there is an issue failed pastors need to wrestle with, it is this one. And he understands it, dissects it, and lays it out in the open.  This was an issue I had to learn to deal with on my own, but Briggs unpacks it in a way that will help any minister dealing with the issue. Shame is one of the greatest enemies of a pastor, devaluing the worth God has given us. Briggs understands the role of shame as a negative motivator in the life of the failed minister and shows a path out.

Briggs also stands out in his passages on restoration. I had not considered that a minister who had experienced failure due to reasons other than immorality would need significant restoration. After reading, the restoration process for both are very much alike. Briggs doesn’t give a step-by-step process out of the pit; that is different for every person. He does offer tremendous guidelines and encouragement for those who are looking to find a way out of discouragement and the pain left after failure.

I definitely encourage all those who come on this site looking for help to take a look at “Fail.” It covers the topic of ministry failure in a way that is thoughtful, personal, and engaging. When you’re reading it, you’ll feel like J. R. Briggs is a close friend and companion on the path. You will definitely realize that as a minister who has failed, you are not alone and definitely not insignificant.

Fail” has a tremendous amount of information in it – it asks a lot of questions. And there is enough in there to write several books. And I hope Briggs continues to write. He blogs on his site and continues to answer many of the questions he asks. But he is strong enough to face the quandary that is facing our churches today. What are we going to do about ministry failure? What are our churches going to do to prevent it? What will our seminaries going to do? What will pastors do?

J. R. Briggs is doing a lot. But it is going to take a movement to handle the great amount of failure we see in our society. I encourage all church leaders, members, pastors, seminary leaders, and associational directors to pick this book up and read it to fight the problem.

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J. R. Briggs serves as Cultural Cultivator of The Renew Community, a Jesus community for skeptics and dreamers in Lansdale, Pennsylvania. He also serves as the Director of Leadership & Congregational Formation with the Ecclesia Network and is on staff with Fresh Expression U.S. He is the creator and curator if the Epic Fail Pastors Conference, giving pastors opportunities to process failure and grow to see failure as an invitation for grace and healing instead of shame.

____________________________

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 Your Attention

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in blogs, blogs worth reading | Posted on 08-08-2014

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I love writing. And I love reading informative blogs – even ones that challenge me. One thing I like to do is point out some blogs I really blob7enjoy. Here are 5 blogs worth your attention.

1. J. R. Briggs – Notably, Briggs has written a book recently called, “Fail,” which I recommend to anyone who reads my blog regularly. My own review of this book will go up tomorrow on this blog and I have posted an Amazon review of this book as well. Briggs understands ministry failure like few others. When I started blogging about moral failure, there were few who understood it. Briggs gets the broad take of ministry failure and has even started conferences to help those who need help. If you are a pastor who has experienced failure – even outside of the moral realm – buy his book. It is enlightening, healing, and helpful. One of the big reasons failed ministers should pick up his book is his insight on shame. It is one of the biggest issues I see when I talk to fallen pastors and Briggs nails it in his book. He discusses it recently on his blog and I suggest you read it: “Why I Love (and hate) That God Takes Our Shame

2. Unsettled Christianity – Here’s a guy who gets it. Gets what? Go find out. It’s Joel Watts. Here is what he says: “originally began to blog to correct the world and their foolish opinions about Christianity, but found myself facing challenges that I didn’t accept. When I did, it unsettled me. It unsettled my neatly trimmed Christianity, and set me on a course to my present position in life.” I love his blog. He’s not afraid to express his opinion. Don’t like it? Don’t read it. But then you won’t be blessed. Know what? Start here: Doctrine prioritizes the Christ and the Church before ourselves

3. Porn to Purity - Jeff and Marsha have been working to help those who have been affected by pornography in the ministry. They have a tremendous blog and online ministry. Good place to start: “Mercy in the Garden

4. Tim Brister – Tim and I were at the same seminary in the same time era, so that makes us related I think. I suggest you start anywhere. If you start reading with one post, you’ll get lost in all of them. He’s an amazing talent with theological, practical and modern insight that will make you think with your mouth wide open. Start right here: “Easter is for the Dead

5. Daniel Darling- You will want to check him out. But before you check out his blog, you will want to read his books. Here’s a good place to start: “Civil Rights and the Gospel” – you won’t be disappointed.

__________________

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.

Why Do Pastors Commit Adultery?

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, affair, pastors | Posted on 07-08-2014

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My site is discovered because of all types of searches. But one of the most common search phrases is “Why do pastors adulterycommit adultery?”

I did. Four years ago. I wasn’t looking to commit adultery – and I don’t believe most pastors who cross the line are looking for it. I wrote a book about my fall and the stories of eleven other men who fell. I learned a lot about the circumstances that can make a pastor weak. Pastors are responsible for their sin. There are emotional, marriage, church and other issues that I outline in my book that can make the pastor weak.

So how is it that those who are the most respected people in our communities can commit a sin that most everyone finds to be the ultimate example of betrayal? Even in Scripture, God uses the language of adultery to compare Israel to be a people who have abandoned Him spiritually.

Let’s back up for a moment. Without sounding cynical, I have always found it interesting how most people watch television and movie dramas. My favorite example is the movie, “Bridges of Madison County.” If you’re not aware of the plot, after a woman dies in her old age, her children discover she had a brief affair with a photographer a long time ago. The movie basically justifies her adultery by showing how the main character was neglected by her husband and how the photographer filled a void in her life. If you watch the movie, you will probably find yourself justifying her actions. And hey, that’s where the plot leads you. It’s Hollywood.

bridgesBut this is not a one time occurrence. Soap operas, movies, television, reality television (those are all very interesting links, by the way) are all set up to create sexual tension. Not to mention the 50 Shades drama a few years ago. We discovered that one of the main reading audiences was Christian women. We have a sexually charged society. We find ourselves rooting for characters to cheat on their spouses, but it’s okay, because they’re only characters in a fictional story.

But when adultery happens in our social circles or in our family, we find it appalling. And we should. Because it is.

But hold on for a second. When we see sex on the big screen, it is sensationalized and made to look like it has no consequences. Just like most violence. The first movie I can remember that ever showed the consequences of violence was “Unforgiven.” (Lots of Clint Eastwood in this blog.)

So where am I going with all of this?

I’m not justifying pastoral adultery. Don’t hear me saying that culture has made us weak and so any of us are prone to commit sin. No, that’s not it. But we do have an interesting social standard. We often think we are immune from television, the songs we hear, or the movies we watch. But we aren’t. How many of us tell our children, “Garbage in, garbage out“?

In my book, I note several things that lead a pastor to weakness: poor relationship with spouse, isolation, conflict with church, and overly high expectations.

Uncontrolled and not seeking help, any of us can be weakened to a point where we will commit sin. But adultery is one of the sins that most Americans seems to hate the most. Despite the fact that statistics show that 25% of Americans have cheated on their spouse but not been caught. Worse yet, 37% of pastors have crossed the line.

Should pastors or any other person cheat? No. It’s a sin. Are there factors that make people weak? Yes. When we commit sin, it’s ours. We own it. Temptation may lead us to a sin, but we don’t have to commit it.

When someone is caught in an affair, there is obviously something that is fulfilling a desire for them. And it’s happening on several fronts. There may be a need that they feel their spouse isn’t fulfilling. There is an escape from stress or conflict. Guilt? Yes. But the risk is greater affairthan the reward.

But nothing ever lasts like that. Affairs are temporary. Any way it goes, one of the people figures out that it’s a fairy tale or both of them figure out that they really want to be together. Everything falls apart. One of them wants everything or one of them realizes the risks and knows it’s not worth it. Maybe it’s guilt, maybe it’s true repentance. But most of the time the remorse comes after the physical sin has occurred.

I can’t tell you how many pastors have contacted me and said “Well, I’ve cheated, my wife doesn’t know, but I’ve stopped seeing the woman I was with. I’m just going to stop. I think I can go on like I was before.” No, you can’t. Scripture says that our sin will find us out.

One statistic in my book is that 33% of conservative clergy have crossed the line with a woman not heir spouse but have not been caught.

Why do pastors commit adultery? The same reason anyone else does. Because we sin. Because something has broken in our relationship between God. Because something is broken in our relationship with our spouse. Because we allow ourselves to get weak and don’t reach out for help. Because we think we are stronger than we are. But we are not. We all need help. We need a community of faith, mentors, friends, family and a net to fall into.

But we fall when we think we can manage our grief, our pain, our conflict, our pain all on our own. We decide to find comfort elsewhere. We never would have considered it before, but when our souls are in pain, we will be more susceptible than we have ever noexcusebeen. All of us. Not just pastors.

Bottom line. There is no excuse. We have sinned. We have fallen short. But pastors need restoration and the help of the church and community of faith. (Galatians 6:1). Any Christian who sins horribly needs the support of those around them. The Christian leaders need to see whether that Christian is going to show signs of repentance – any sign of repentance. If they do, then they need to provide help. Even if they have to go outside the church to provide it.

This ministry. Fallen pastor. That’s what it’s here for. If you don’t know where to go or if you’re confused, contact me. I am here to help.

Other Helpful Articles:

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

Why Affairs Happen,” by Cindy Crosby

How to Have an Affair (and Ruin Everything)” by Kurt Kubna

____________________________

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.

This Ministry, Humility, and Pride

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in blog, daughters, ministry | Posted on 06-08-2014

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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.”

menabigail

Me and Abigail

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:

I Am a Former Pastor

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.

Fallen Pastor Facebook & Book Giveaway

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in book, facebook | Posted on 04-08-2014

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I finally got around to making a Facebook page for Fallen Pastor and my book. Actually, my lovely daughter Abigail did all the heavy lifting. Check out the Facebook page fblikehere.

To show my appreciation for your support, I’m going to give away a free copy of “Fallen Pastor” to one of the first 150 people  who “Like” the Facebook page. So thanks to those of you who are loyal readers and supporters and thanks to those of you who are reading my blog for the first time.

I pray that this ministry continues to help those who need it. And I hope it will be shared with new people each day who find themselves in difficult circumstances. God bless all of you.

__________________

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 Things I Would Change About The Way I Pastored

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in pastoring, preaching | Posted on 01-08-2014

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psIt’s been almost five years since I fell from the ministry. I don’t spend a lot of free time these days thinking about my days as  pastor. I have the occasional conversation with former church members in whom I can confide. When I do, it helps me see things from a different angle.

Surely, the sin I committed, followed by the humbling circumstances and my eventual turning back to Christ made me a different person. If I could go back in time and do it again, there would be a few things that I would change about myself.

1. I would resist the urge to always be right.

I know for a fact that this isn’t just unique to me. It’s good to be right, don’t get me wrong. Pastors preach the Word of God, the truth of Scripture. But I think there may be moments when we preach that we get confused and believe that just because we’re preaching God’s truth, it means that it’s our truth. If I can say it differently, it’s almost like we trap ourselves in a protective bubble where we think that standing behind a pulpit gives us freedom to say what we want and believe we are right. We can win any argument “just because we’re the pastor” or “because I have a seminary degree.” We may not phrase it that way, but that subtle pride does sneak in from time to time and it needs to be beaten down with a big, ugly stick.

2. I would make sure to mix in more of the compassion and grace of Christ in my preaching.

I preached as an unabashed Calvinist. That doesn’t mean I never preached on the saving grace of Christ. I did. One of my seminary professors said, “If the gospel isn’t present in your sermon each week, you’ve failed.” I took that to heart. But there were times when I was so caught up in the depravity of man and I punched that card so many times, I wonder if I properly balanced it with the Savior. On this side of my life, I’ve seen the compassion and love Christ has for outcasts. He didn’t approach sinners with their depravity, he went to where they were and spoke truth and love to them. There is a time to share sinful nature. But there is always time to let people know how amazing, deep, and fervent the love of Christ really is.

3. I would make time to really, really listen more.

I did visit shut-ins, make hospital visits, phone calls, perform funerals, console the grieving, counsel, etc. Like most memberppastors, those were things that were expected. That’s not what I’m talking about. What about the people we see each Sunday who you ask, “How are you?” And each Sunday they say, “Doing great!” What if they aren’t? What if some of those people, those who are working two jobs to make ends meet and can barely stay awake in church, those youth who look sad on occasion, those older members you see who look lost and sad once in a while – what if we went out of our way to just engage them for a moment. Don’t talk, but just listen. If they don’t want to talk right then, they know you care. And it may open up a chance for them to come to you later.

4. I would spend less time worrying about things that I had no control over.

There are a lot of things pastors can’t control, but we spend a lot of time preaching about them. Gossip, giving, committee meetings, people who don’t like us, etc. We try and pray about it, we put it in God’s hands, but a day later, we’re still worrying about little conflicts here and there. Somewhere in the black and white of Scripture it says, “remember your calling.Our calling isn’t to get all anxious and worked up about things we can’t control. Jesus told us not to worry or get anxious. Being anxious doesn’t do any good because most of this world is out of our control anyway. The best we can do is gauge our reaction to the events in front of us. It’s a very hard thing to do as a pastor, but I think I’ve learned to do a better job.

5. Demonstrate the love of Christ, not my own bitterness.

loveofxSo many times I would hear of sin in the church. I would get angry and want to do something about it. I’d fret, worry and react. Church discipline has its place when it’s done for restoration. But my heart wasn’t balanced right. I was out to remove cancers, not to heal hearts. Christ showed compassion for sinners. When they didn’t have another friend in the world, he chose to stand by them. He chose understanding over judgment. And later, he would give his life so that they might be free from their sin.

Interestingly, I would not even venture to change anything about the church. If change is to happen, it has to start with the man in the pulpit. Christ changed this world. How? Because of who he was. And with Christ in us, we can also make changes. Attempting to change people through guilt, anger, lashing out, or other means is useless. Changing ourselves by allowing Christ to work in us is how the church will be transformed.

I’m thankful for the years I got to spend as a pastor. I do miss preaching to a great degree. I’m told when I preach now that I’m a totally different person, and I choose to take that as a compliment. Falling and failing into a great pit is a great way to be humbled, especially when it’s your own fault. But we can always know that Christ will be there to drag us out of it.

I’m thankful for the man God has made me into today. He’s not done with me and I’m not perfect by a long shot. I just pray that I may be able to help those who were in my situation before they reach a crisis point. I pray that all of us, pastor or church member or nominal Christian would be able to reflect upon ourselves in the light of Christ and follow him and let him show us what he sees in us.

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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.

Bob Coy Family Divided

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in bob coy, current events, fallenness, gossip, social media | Posted on 30-07-2014

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bobcoyBob Coy Family Divided – It’s a search term that keeps poking it’s head up on my blog search results. Every day, people find my blog searching for those words. I wrote a blog post about Bob Coy. The best and most balanced blog post I’ve seen is from The Last Hiker’s blog that has over 400 comments. In those comments, many of them are judgmental and angry. The Last Hiker’s blog post is excellent in dealing with the issues surrounding fallen pastor Bob Coy, who was a pastor in Fort Lauderdale and admitted to adultery.

Bob Coy was a national figure and committed adultery. He sinned greatly. He lied for a long time. He hurt many people. It shows that the sin of adultery when committed by a pastor has horrible effects on family, a congregation, a community, and a nation. These are things I have been writing about for five years and shared in my book. There are no excuses for what he did.

I am concerned that for the past two months people have been showing up to my blog searching for “Bob Coy family divided.” Each time I see that, I grimace a little. I understand the pain that people are going through. I hurt people when I committed adultery. But I also think that it’s time for people across this country to understand that there is a responsible Christian response to Bob Coy’s fall. I don’t know what’s going on with Bob Coy and his family. It’s none of my business. And it’s really no one else’s business. It is a matter for his family, church leadership, and God.

One of the problems is that a lot of people want information. That’s normal. They want answers for why he did what he did. I get that. In our age of information, we believe we are entitled to information. But Christians, in this case, we don’t need it. We don’t. Bob Coy and his family need some time. And we need to give it to them. I’ve listed some questions I’ve seen online regarding the Bob Coy situation and responses to them:

Bob Coy sinned. And his sin put us in a position to ask these questions.” Yeah, in a way it did. But for a Christian, there comes a moment where we have to ask, “how much information is enough?” When do questions become gossip? When do our questions become the stuff of reality television and drama? When do we start following the church discipline guidelines of Matthew 18 and Galatians 6 and allow restoration to take place? When do we stop poking around with this man and his family’s life and start minding our own business?

But trust me, right now, what he does not need are people who claim the mantle of Christ acting like paparazzi.”

He was a pastor. A man in the public eye. The people of his church have a right to know.” Here’s a tough one. Do we trust the men and women we have appointed as church leaders to handle the situation, or do we as church members keep poking around for information until we have stripped the bones bare until we are satisfied? What is the purpose of church leadership if not for a time like this? Yes, Bob Coy has sinned greatly. And this is a time for church leadership to step in and take care of the issues. And church members should trust them to help Coy and his family the best they can.

He was a national media figure. He put himself out there for everyone to see. So it’s everyone’s business.” That sounds like the reasoning of people who don’t understand Scripture. When it all comes down to it, this is a matter for Bob Coy, his wife, his family and his God. Is he repentant? I don’t know. Is his family in turmoil? Who knows? But asking questions via Google is not going to help. Prying into his life is not going to help resolve a spiritual situation.

“But the family shared information!” Even if the family shares a limited amount of information, that doesn’t give any Christian the right to pore over it like it’s the National Enquirer. Information shared by a “family friend” should really be considered shaky, at best. If the family wants to report on their progress, let them. And let it be.

Honestly, if you are a Christian and you want to help, pray. I have counseled hundreds of fallen pastors over the past five years. Do you know what makes the biggest difference in the heart of a fallen pastor? A work of God so that he will repent. Not a bunch  of people digging into his personal life to see if there is a rift in his family. Sure, we live in an age where we can poke around and see the particulars of the Kardashian family and their latest beach pictures. But that is not and should not be the norm for Christians who are fighting a spiritual battle for restoration back to Christ.

Please stop searching for gossip, family rumors, church rumors, and the status of Bob Coy on the internet if you are a Christian. It’s shameful. If you are a member of his church, wait on the church leadership. If you aren’t a member of his church, pray for him and his church. Then start making things better for your own pastor and your church.

We are living in a culture that is saturated with reality television. A culture that has to know the intimate details of every individual. We have succumbed to it because we post our own lives on Facebook and other social media each day. Maybe what Bob Coy and his family need are distance, time, healing and prayers from the people of God.

calvary

Boy Coy’s former church, Calvary Chapel

Understand that when pastors fall, they receive attention from the community regardless of the size. Whether they are a pastor of a megachurch or a small church, they will get a lot of community gossip. The attention is a consequence of their sin and it is deserved. What matters most is the heart of the fallen pastor. Will he repent? Will he choose the path of restoration? Sometimes the pastor will resist restoration and walk in sin for a while. Sometimes he will repent immediately. But either way, the church, according to Galatians 6:1 has a duty to be there to restore him back to Christ.

We are not to dig into the details of his sin and berate him publicly. Our job is to be in prayer for his recovery. Again, he did something that was sinful. But where is Christ in all of this? Where we want Him to be. Waiting on the sinner to repent, and loving him. Just like He would do with any of us.

If he doesn’t repent, then one day he may need help if he does return. His family needs help. But trust me, right now, what he does not need are people who claim the mantle of Christ acting like paparazzi. Those are the people he needs in earnest, forthright prayer for him and his family.

Other helpful articles:

Pastor Bob Coy, The Church, Adultery, Consequences and Grace,” The Last Hiker

What I Should Have Told Bob Coy 29 Years Ago,” by Nate Larkin on Covenant Eyes

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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 Ways a Pastor Can Avoid Being Judgmental

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in judgmental, pastors | Posted on 28-07-2014

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When I was researching for my book, I found a common characteristic in a lot of pastors who had fallen from the ministry. Many of them had a twinge of judgmentalism. Some of them (like me) just thought they were being biblical and saw things as black and white all the time. Most of them did not realize that there was a difference in understanding the truth of Scripture and applying it with love and compassion.

In the years since my fall, I’ve had time to talk to a lot of fallen pastors and I keep in touch with guys who are still doing the work of pastor. lawnI’d like to offer 3 quick tips on how to avoid being too judgmental.

Don’t be the expert about other people’s lawns. Once in a while, I get behind the owner of a local landscaping service while he drives home. He doesn’t watch the road much. Instead, he looks at other people’s lawns and shakes his head in pity a lot. One of the traps pastors can fall into is becoming too concerned about how other pastors are doing at their respective churches.  Some guys can have a tendency to bash another pastor’s work when things aren’t going well at his own church. This just causes divisiveness and bitterness. We really need to be concerned about our own lawns.

Don’t launch scud missile sermons. I heard a guy use this term during a breakout session at a pastor’s conference. He basically said, “When we get frustrated with the sin of someone in the church or angry with a deacon, sometimes we take matters into our own hands and launch a little scud missile sermon at them. We preach a sermon directed just at them and what we think they’re doing. And what usually happens is that they either don’t show up that Sunday or don’t realize we’re preaching at them.” If we are concerned about sin, that’s biblical. But we need to consider handling it privately first.

Look beyond the sinner and find Christ. I was very judgmental as a pastor. I thought upholding God’s law and practicing harsh church discipline were pleasing to Him. I thought Christ wanted a pure church and that those were the means to do it. Somewhere along the lines, I got mean about it. But church discipline isn’t mean. It’s restorative. We’re supposed to be Christ-like when we run across a major sin. Part compassion, part encouraging to repentance, and part waiting for God to act upon their heart.

Pastor, you may not realize that you struggle with this. Ask some of your close friends. Ask your wife. Better yet, allow Scripture to move upon your heart and look upon the works and words of Christ as your guide.

Other helpful articles:

What is the difference between discernment and being judgmental?” at Bible.org

What’s the difference between judging and being judgmental?” Church of the Holy Comforter

The Responsibility to Rebuke,” by John MacArthur

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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.

Can We Just Forgive Someone “In Our Heart?”

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in forgiveness, reconciliation | Posted on 25-07-2014

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forgivemeI want to write about a statement that really, really bothers me. “I’ve forgiven ‘so and so’ in my heart.”

I have heard this sentiment over and over for many years. I understand what it means. Usually, it means, “I say I forgive them, but I never really want to tell them I forgive them.

Is this true, biblical forgiveness? Does Jesus ever tell us that we can “forgive someone in our heart” then never tell them that we’ve forgiven them?

No.

Now, I’ll grant that there are times that we need to give forgiveness and that full reconciliation is not going to happen. I get that. That’s not what I’m talking about.

I’m talking about John Churchgoer who doesn’t want to face the person who has wronged him and say, “I forgive you.” He doesn’t want to accept the apology or repentance of the person who is offering it. He doesn’t want to look that person in the eye ever again, as is required by Scripture. He just wants an “out.”

So he says, “I forgive him in my heart.”

Real forgiveness that involves face to face reconciliation is vital because it begins the healing process. It gives both parties the chance to have peace about the situation.

Where did this horrible phrase ever come from? It needs to be stricken from our vocabulary and replaced with true forgiveness. I have a feeling that this silent forgiveness exists because of the statement Jesus made in Matthew 6:14, “If you forgive men when they sin against you, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you.” And then, he states the negative. Maybe instead of facing people to reconcile with them and make peace, somewhere along the line, we decided it would be much easier on us if we just “forgave them in our  heart.”

But it’s just not biblical. I would encourage you that if you know someone who is repentant and has asked for forgiveness to ask why you haven’t forgiven them. Does it mean you still shouldn’t have boundaries, be careful with your trust, or have a heart to heart? No, but forgiveness is something we should never withhold.

Forgiveness needs to be real and honest. It doesn’t need to be silent. It’s either real or not. It’s either genuine and seeking toward reconciliation or it’s not.

Other helpful articles:

As We Forgive Our Debtors,” from Desiring God, John Piper

What Does the Bible Say About Forgiveness?,” by Mary Fairchild

What Does Real Forgiveness Look Like?” The Reformed Reader

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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.