“I heard about a pastor who committed adultery in August then killed himself in December. I wondered, ‘Did anyone reach out to him? Did anyone love him? Did anyone seek to restore him?’ It brought back so many memories of when I wanted to die.”
That story has haunted me. In fact, it has come to fruition many times since then. In the past year, I received an email from a man who told me that a pastor who committed suicide after committing adultery.
I recall a long time ago a story about a youth pastor who hadn’t committed any kind of serious sin, but felt all kinds of anxiety and pressure. He was a seminary student. He called his insurance company and asked if his plan covered suicide. They told him it did. The next day, he wrapped himself in carpet in his car and pulled the trigger.
Ministry is very intensive. Extremely intensive. Whether you have committed a huge sin or not. In my book, I list the pressures ministers face on a daily basis.
Here’s what I want to convey to you today: Pastors are under a huge amount of pressure. They may put on a front that their lives are wonderful. I know I did.
And for the pastor, many of those feelings get ramped up. They have the added pressure of taking on the pains and hurt of others. Often times, there’s no outlet. They don’t have many close friends to talk to. For a lot of pastors, their marriage has been difficult for many years. Unfortunately for some, suicide becomes a real option.
I’ve learned is that many pastors and their wives have learned to hide their sorrows and pains of their marriages very well.
Friends, isn’t about time that in the church, we started being real with each other? Especially in our church leadership? I hid the failures of my own marriage from myself. What if I had gotten help earlier? What if the church leaders, members, and people actually started being real with each other?
When I talked to the fallen pastors in my book, they lamented that they couldn’t be real with the people in their churches. Unfortunately, I see story after story about pastors who commit suicide because they see no end but to kill themselves. They can’t be real with anyone. Is it an excuse? No. But they have no one to reach out to.
Maybe you are the one to reach out to them. Maybe your pastor has fallen. Maybe you are disappointed in them. Maybe you have lost faith in them. But let me tell you this – God has never given up on them. And neither should you. Don’t ever give up on another human being, regardless of how you feel about them.
Pursue them. Love them. Remember the father of the prodigal son. Never let another person feel alone, regardless of their sin. Don’t abandon anyone. Ever.
Remember the mission of Christ. He never gave up on any of us. He went to the cross for us. Bleeding, weeping, when all was lost. And He made it count.
Even if your pastor committed adultery, embezzled money, lied to you – you don’t have to agree with his sin. But gracious me. We still have to show compassion. There is still some Christ in you to forgive. To show friendship. To say, “I may not understand why you did what you did – but the Christ in me still loves me for who you are.”
Even if your pastor hasn’t done anything wrong – maybe you think he hung the moon – guess what? He may have a smile on every week, but he may be the most emotionally conflicted person you’ve ever come into contact with.
Pastors, don’t wait until you get to the brink. Get help. Reach out. We are here. Church members, look for signs in your pastor. Let him have a break. Reach out to him and his wife before problems start.
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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