When a pastor falls from ministry, it wasn’t a decision he made overnight. The sin of adultery takes root some time before a fall and if not addressed, sinks its teeth in and grapples the heart fully and without letting go. It’s a difficult thing to understand the twisted mind of a fallen pastor.
If you’ve ever approached a fallen pastor soon after his fall and tried reasoning with him, it was probably a very confusing experience for you. I’ve been on both sides of this experience. I have been the fallen pastor (with the twisted mind) and I’ve counseled fallen pastors.
I want to give you some insight to this process. Whether you’re the fallen pastor or you’re trying to understand the fallen pastor, hopefully this post will help you.
The Mind of the Fallen Pastor
When a pastor begins to entertain ideas of adultery, something is obviously wrong. He’s left his spiritual life unattended and neglected his marriage. I’ve blogged about this issue before and wrote a book about the factors that lead a pastor to moral failure. Whatever leads him to it, he is the one who makes the decision to walk through the door of temptation.
Realize, however, that in the months that lead up to that decision, he has invented a world of moral ambiguity where God is just fine with adultery. He has twisted the Word of God into a lie and filled the pulpit with a farcical reboot of his own fancy.
I know this because it’s what I did. It’s what I had to do to push the guilt aside. It’s what you have to do when you want to keep preaching to people every week out of a book that tells you that what you’re doing is wrong. You have to lie to yourself every second of the day.
You also have to lie to the person you’re committing adultery with. I’ve learned that in an adulterous relationship, the woman the pastor is cheating with is much more likely to raise a moral objection than the pastor. The pastor will be quick to justify the sin but the woman is often overwrought with guilt.
If you’re a pastor in this situation, come clean. Stop lying. Stop perverting the Word of God. Reach out and I or someone else can help you. No judgement. No scolding from me. Just love and understanding.
How to Understand the Fallen Pastor
How do you deal with a pastor in this condition? Know that it’s going to be very difficult. He’s going to be saying things that he honestly believes. He may accuse you of hating him or judging him. He may tell you that God has condoned his adultery. He may yell and scream and pout. If you’re a friend in any way, be patient and listen. If you can’t deal with it, don’t. But find someone who can.
If he resists help and remains unrepentant, you have to walk away. Dr. Hershael York has some great words on the subject in this blog post – and his words are also equally great regarding true repentance. If the guy shows any kind of movement toward repentance at all, he’s worth saving.
If he keeps moving away and carries on in lack of repentance, let him do so, but I suggest you do what Capshaw Baptist in Huntsville, Alabama did under the leadership of Pastor Zach Terry when they had a staff member leave – store up grace for the day when God moves on the heart of the unrepentant pastor. Don’t ever shut the door on a fallen pastor completely.
Be ready to restore such a one some day. How do we restore someone like that? By reconciling with them publicly and lovingly. Letting the world know that the prodigal has come home. Sure, it might be a mess, but sometimes life is just messy.
Friends, the mind of the fallen pastor gets twisted for sure. Mine did. But it’s not hopeless. God untwists the twisted. He redeems us all. No one is beyond saving. He reaches down into that pit and brings us up from it. Don’t give up on anyone.
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.
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