Monthly Archives: September 2012

What do we do?

I received this note from one of our former members today.  It was very interesting to receive this more than six years after our pastor fell.

“After Pastor’s awesome service on Grace and how God loves no matter what (at another church) , I turned around and saw T— (our fallen pastor) and his wife. I was truly taken back. I wanted to hug him. That experience, our discussions after, and of course God having a hand on me really shaped me.”

Even after all these years people don’t know how to respond to T—.  He’s a saint, saved by the grace of God, who fell into sin and yet we don’t know what to do with him.  I told my old friend who sent me the note, “Do hug him next time you see him. It will really help him. Ok?”  He may have fallen, but he’s forgiven and growing in faith.

How do we deal with fallen pastors?

When do they get to be forgiven by us?

How do we connect with them?

I’ve seen this as I’ve pulled my old friend and pastor back into relationship with me.  He was deeply wounded, not only by his sin but also by the response of the body of Christ.  It’s as if some would have “strung him up” if they could.  Unforgiveness, bitterness, discomfort and avoidance were the responses he encountered and sadly still does at times.

So, what do we do?  As a body of believers, we don’t do well with forgiveness and reconciliation.  We don’t know how to extend it, what to do about the “sinners” in our midst.  What do we do with a fallen pastor?  A man caught in homosexuality? A friend addicted to pornography?

What do we do?  We seem to think we must be the moral police and protect God’s reputation, but that has never been our role.  We are called to forgive…up to 490 times!  We are to be known as the forgivers…why? Because we have been forgiven so much.

So, what do you do when you encounter a “sinner”?  Approach them, hug them, love them, accept them….it will be like pouring burning coals on their head, because it will be painful for them, but we are called to imitate Christ and he was the master of forgiveness.  Even on the cross he said, “Father, forgive them…”  So should we!

When you encounter a fallen pastor approach him, love him (not for his sin, but because Christ died for him) and extend grace.  You will surprise him and that’s a good thing!

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Suicide

I wonder.  I think it’s true.  I wonder how often an affair is, in fact, a way to commit pastoral suicide.  The other woman is the gun and the results destroy a life, a family and a church.  I think it happens because a pastor finds himself overwhelmed and unable to keep up.  He’s over his head and sees no way out, so he commits a form of suicide that destroys everything.

Of course it’s not this simple. Nothing ever is, but having watched this for a while I wonder….is this one of the reason for the fall of a pastor?  Does a man find himself unable to keep up appearances, unable to keep it all going and maybe, without even realizing it, uses an affair to destroy everything?

In no way does this excuse the choices.  There are much better and healthier ways to leave a ministry, but I wonder…..

Emotional affairs

Not all the problems a pastor faces involve physical contact.  Equally serious, although never revealed in most cases, are emotional affairs.  They happen with a smile, a little extra time, attention, a listening ear and an interested look.  Soon the pastor is dreaming of the affair he may never have in the flesh, but he’s had it in his mind.

Emotional affairs don’t seem as deadly as a physical affair to most, but they have their consequences and often they are as serious as the physical affair.  The pastor finds himself distancing from his wife and looking for those emotional “fixes” with the “other woman”.  They seem harmless, but if you could see his thoughts you would know otherwise.  The price for the pastor’s marriage is the biggest cost of all.  Although he may never betray his wife sexually he has had a change of affections and she notices it.

Soon the distance between them is further than they know and he is more drawn to an affair because his affections are given to another woman and not his wife.  The bait in this trap seems harmless.  It’s just a little time to care for a woman in need of a friendly ear, someone who cares, but soon it’s much more.

Affairs begin with innocent steps that no one would ever notice, but God sees.  He knows.  He’s aware.  This ministry of a pastor is serious business and should never be taken lightly.  It’s a serious calling, just as the priestly role was in the days of Aaron and Moses.  There is a holiness that God expects.

In 1 Cor. 6:19-20 Paul gives us three keys to dealing with these emotional affairs and how to think about your life, you love and your ministry.  Study the passage and you will find the keys to making choices, but to help make it easy here they are in a nutshell, 1. You are not your own, 2. You have been bought with a price, so 3. Glorify God in your body.

If we could live by these three simple guidelines a lot of our problems would vanish and we would find a real joy in walking with God and denying sin.

More ripples…

There are ripples (problems) that resonate for years after a pastor’s sin is discovered.  They are not about the pastor any longer, but they are the result of his sin and how people have responded.  You will find that people need help processing how to think, what to do, how to respond to the changes that happen because of a pastor’s fall.  Here is a note I sent to one of our members this week in response to a visit I had with them last Sunday in our lobby.  This person had decided to not serve anymore because they didn’t like the direction we are going.  Here is my response to them.  I hope it might help you as well.

Dear ________, 

Thanks for your note.  It was a real joy to visit with you about our church and our personal responses.  May I do it in bullet points?  That might be easier to sort out.  Feel free to dialogue on these points and make any comments you wish in response, ok?  

Here we go,

1. This church is God’s church.  He is in charge.  He’s still Lord of heaven AND earth (that includes this little community of believers).  He’s in charge of what happens here.  Often we don’t like it or more importantly don’t understand his ways of doing things, but our call is to, a. trust him, b. pray for his direction and, c. let him rule the church. 

2. The elders chose the pastor.  They were given the responsibility to lead our body and in that role our pastor was chosen.  Neither he (nor any other pastor) will be all that the body wants or needs.  Some will want one thing, others another, but he is the pastor that God has given this church for this time.  As Spurgeon said years ago, “If you don’t like the pastor you have then pray for him and God will change him.”  The pastor is God’s problem and he answers to God for his role, his leadership and his teaching.  Accountability for the pastor’s job is first to God and then to the elders.  God will watch over his church and he will work in the pastor’s life as we pray for him. Our role in the body is to pray.  I’ve already seen God working in our pastor.  I know he wants to walk with God and know him better, but he is different and his gifts are different than what some would want.  In spite of that here he is.  Now what? 

3.  As I mentioned in #2 our primary job in response to the pastor is to pray.  Pray for God to work in his heart, pray that God will give him a passion for the word, a passion for the message and love for the people.  All of that can ONLY come from God and the work of HIS Spirit in his heart.  We can’t make him do it, we can’t nag him into doing it…none of that will produce a work of God.  Only prayer is the right response. 

Some have asked, “why did God bring this pastor here?”  I don’t know entirely, but could it be that part of God’s work is in his life?  There is much he is doing in us as well.  We have always loved to be taught the word, but for what purpose?  With our former pastor it was for the teaching alone.  Teaching the word was the end in and of itself.  We were a bunch of spiritually fat Christians.  We honestly never did anything with it.  I know the word is life changing, and so there were results of course, but application was not our former pastor’s strong point.   

Now about our current pastor.  Could God have brought him here to work on him, on us or both?  He was deeply wounded in his last church, maybe this time is for him.  God loves him as much as he loves you and I.  I assume he wants to redeem him and work in his life, right?  But, maybe all of this is for us….to knock us about a bit and get us on our knees.  We had a bit of arrogance because “we had verse by verse bible teaching”  (which I dearly love by the way) and now we don’t.  Is God working to bring this body to a point of dependence on God alone?  I honestly don’t know or understand God’s ways here, to be sure I have asked, but I will trust him and pray.  And pray I do, for our church, for our pastor, for me and my attitude. 

 Now to you, you are a gifted teacher.  You love doing it.  Your gift is from the Spirit and by using it you are doing your part in the body.  When you or I refuse to use our gifts because we don’t like something about the church we are handicapping the church, making it less effective and we are disobeying God.  The pastor is God’s problem (as are you and I).  We do nothing to help the body grow or become what it should if we fold our hands and say, “I’m not going to use my gifts because I don’t like the pastor God gave us or the way he does his job.”  It honestly sounds like you are in more trouble than the pastor, doesn’t it?  I know that you have a heart for God and a passion for his transforming word, so use your gifts, serve where he places you and pray for the other members of the body that God will work in their lives.  It is the body of CHRIST after all isn’t it?  Is he able to make it work as he wishes?  Is he able to place different members in our body where he wishes?   

YES, and our response must be, “Lord, YOUR will be done, work in him and in me for YOUR glory.  I don’t like the way things are going, but that’s your problem.  I will pray for the church and for our pastor and will serve with the gifts you have given me.”   

Honestly, the rest is God’s problem and we have to take it to him, leave it with him and serve him with joy.  He is able and will bring glory to his name if we will trust him.

I know I may have left something out, but let’s start our discussion with these words and go from here, ok?

Another pastor has fallen

I can always tell when a pastor is caught in adultery.  It’s crystal clear.  My visitor count goes up dramatically!  On a normal day I might have 25-30 people stop by and read an article, take a look or make a comment, but there are days when the visitor count goes up to 200!  It’s on those days I know another pastor has fallen and the church family is looking for answers, looking for help.

If you’re stopping by because your church has just discovered the pastor’s sin take a moment and tell your story.  Our goal here is to help other churches and believers, 1. know how to deal with the fall of a pastor and, 2. try to prevent it from happening in the future.

Today the numbers are up.  Another pastor has fallen.  It happens far too often.  Let us know how we can pray for you.