Contact infoOne in five pastors will fall in their lifetime. That means that many churches will suffer and the people in them will need help and direction. You may be in one of those churches and that's why you have found this site. After serving in a church where this has happened I have become an unwilling "expert" in what to do right and what to do wrong. It seems a shame to go through all of this and not share what I have learned. If your church finds itself in the midst of dealing with the fall of a pastor I would be glad to help. Ask your leadership team to contact me and I will help you get through those first and most difficult months. You can reach me at email@example.com. Mike
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“Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” -2 Corinthians 7:10
Regret is something I think about often. We all do it when we think about the bad choices of the past. I regret so many things it’s hard to keep up with them. I regret not saving more, I regret not saying I’m sorry when I needed to, I regret not playing with my kids more. There are so many.
I’m sure, if you made a list, there would be several that you wish you could have a mulligan on, a do-over. That’s the way of regret, once we have done it or said it we must live with the consequences of the action or the word for the rest of our lives.
Most of our sins leave us with small regrets, but the sin of a pastor who has fallen rings with an amplified regret. It’s in bold letters for them if they are tender to God. But with regret comes two other emotions we each must deal with- the fantasy of what could have been and the fear of what might be. All of these are the results of bad choices and not trusting God with our lives.
Regret is real, but God’s desire is that we use it to repent and be restored to him and his family. We can’t undo what we have done, but we can use the regrets of our sins to make good choices in the days ahead.
God’s desire for the fallen pastor is that he would repent and walk with God once more, a son restored, forgiven, rejoicing in the savior who gave his life for all our sins….even this one.
Some of you have stopped by on occasion and made a comment or two. Thank you. But to be honest this is not a site people visit and linger. This is a problem fixing site. “Here’s what wrong, what do I do?” site. I know that if you are stopping here it’s because you are part of a church where you have just discovered your pastor’s sin and are looking for answers, for what to do.
Much of what I have written is directional, informational and devotional, but it’s also focused on a topic none of us want to linger over for long. We want to fix it and get on with “real life”. I do so understand that. Talking about broken churches and fallen pastors is just not fun or encouraging.
But, what I have seen is that over time God does do amazing things in the lives of people whose whole world has been destroyed by a pastor’s fall. I’m watching as I see pastors I have worked with move on into new ministries and visions for their life. I’m watching people from our body (I saw many of them last night at a wedding) continue to grow and love God….even though they are in new churches and not part of our community any longer.
What I realize is that God is able to continue his kingdom work even after a pastor has sinned and destroyed a church family, even after he has ruined his life, marriage and ministry, even after it seems many have walked away from the faith.
We are now in the seventh year since our big earthquake. The church is still alive, but it’s much different. I think any church will change after a pastor’s affair. It has to. Our body has changed. Now we have a lot of people who have no knowledge of what happened here….and to be honest we rarely mention it any more….it just takes too long to explain.
So what is the one thing I would tell you after almost seven years? God’s church will be fine and so will you. Trust him, stay in his word, stay in a community of faith…don’t walk away…and pray for God’s work in your life and in the lives of those who went through this disaster with you. I guess that was more than one thing, wasn’t it?
Anyway….I want to simply assure you that if you are new to this experience in your church the most important thing you can do is keep your eyes on Christ and realize he is still Lord of his church in spite of what has happened. He will be glorified in the church and in your life. Keep trusting him. You will see his amazing work and grace. You will grow. And God will be glorified!
New beginnings are exciting, but often hard. They are especially hard when a church family is considering a new pastor after the last one fell in sin. The church is fearful and still untrusting. The new pastor is hopeful, but he has much to deal with in this broken and hurting church.
The church thinks a new man will dull the pain and scars of the last pastor, but he can’t. No man can. The scars and wounds, the lack of trust and forgiveness needed must all be done over time. Healing will take a while. It’s a work of God, not of a new pastor.
Can the new pastor survive the healing process? Does he know what he’s dealing with? Usually he doesn’t last long and honestly, most of the time has no idea what he’s facing. Soon he’s gone and the church is still in pain.
If you are part of a church dealing with a fallen pastor or a pastor coming into a broken church here are some things you both need to know. Let me list them as they come to my mind. There are more, but here are a few:
1. The church is hurting. The church and the new pastor need to acknowledge that. Don’t try to pretend it’s not true. Deal with it honestly and deal with it biblically.
2. The church’s trust has been broken. Most of the people in the church, although unaware of it, will not trust the new pastor. The last one, the one they loved, failed them. How can they trust another pastor? Trust is something that will have to be earned. The new pastor needs to know it’s not given easily in a broken church, he will have to work on this intentionally.
3. Forgiveness is needed. The new pastor will need to talk about what forgiveness is and what the process must be for a church to heal. Forgiveness is a must if the church and the new pastor are to survive.
4. Trust in another area has been dealt a blow as well. Wives, who always trusted their husbands in the past, are now more likely to lose trust in their own husbands for a period of time. If the pastor, a “godly man”, could fall then how can I trust my husband? That question will be in the air even if never spoken. A wise pastor coming into a broken church will soon teach a series on marriage. It will be vital for the church and for the couples who were struggling before all of this happened.
5. Those who might have been thinking about an affair in their marriages before now have “permission”. If the pastor did it….then… And some, in spite of the price paid by the pastor who fell in sin, will consider it permission for them to do the same thing. Some marriages will fail because of the fall of the pastor. The next pastor needs to be keenly aware of this being a temptation to a few in the church.
6. And last, for this post….although I will deal with this again, the next pastor must be overly careful about his own marriage and how he handles himself. He must be overly careful. He must make sure he never counsels a woman in the church alone. He must never meet with a woman alone. He might be completely trustworthy and would never repeat the sin of the former pastor, but because of the pain and hurt in the church family people will be watching VERY closely. He has to be especially careful in his actions to help the church heal. The next pastor may think this unfair. He would never repeat the same sin, but that’s not the point. His role is one of healer, restorer, shepherd and in that role he has to guard the sheep…even from their own suspicions.
I have many more in my thoughts as I write, but this post is already a little long. I’ll revisit this topic again soon. I hope you all have a great new year and I pray you and your church heal, forgive and grow in the grace of Jesus Christ.
(I’ve received a number of notes over the last few years from those of you going through this same thing. I would like to share the stories of others going through the fall of a pastor. I will remove the names, dates and locations to protect their privacy, but their stories from the pews are so important that I wanted to share them with you. Here is the first one. -Mike)
I am writing this on behalf of my husband and I.
I’ve found your site to be very helpful, and beneficial.
I write to you because our church underwent a similar situation. In 200- our pastor had been unfaithful to his wife, which he admitted to us in a letter of resignation. The incident had occurred months prior, but he felt it was right to resign, even though they were in the middle of reconciliation. I worked for the church at the time and the shockwave of the sin and resignation hit all of us staff. It shocked the rest of the congregation as well. At the time I was ready to forgive, completely understanding that he’d chosen to resign for the better of the congregation.
But giving began going down after his resignation, although much of it probably related more to the economy, and I was among those staff members laid off as a result. The pastor completed reconciliation/recommission and then started another church in our area, which resulted in a church split. Individual congregants, including my husband and I, have endured some pretty hard, heavy-duty financial and physical trials, which we continue to this day. When I lost my job that was when I became angry with the pastor and the situation. I knew people who were my mentors or friends who left our church to go to his and it was like a pain going through my heart. I am still hurt because his sin ultimately caused my job loss and helped contribute to our financial struggles. I’ve struggled with feelings of betrayal, feeling as if he abandoned our church after so many years invested in it. I feel hurt because he apologized in a letter instead telling us face-to-face. I have not been able to visit the pastor’s new church. Now I don’t want to harbor unforgiveness, and I have asked the Lord to help me to forgive, but the situation is still painful. Is this OK? Will I get to place of forgiveness? How do I really get over this and truly forgive? Is there any support groups that address this situation?
It’s September. Five years ago this month we discovered our pastor’s sin. I think, for me, these have been the toughest five years of my life! I have seen many leave our church and some walk away from the faith. Sin does that, but it’s still painful to watch.
I just had lunch with our fallen pastor last week. He’s in a secular job now, trying to rebuild his life, but he still misses the ministry…..it was his first love. He told me he feels his voice for God has been silenced. He’s right. Sin does that.
He asked, “do I need to ask your forgiveness again?” He has done that many times. I told him, “no, we are done with that, let’s just have a nice lunch as brothers in Christ.” But what he knows is that his sin has made him a leper of sorts among the Christian world. We seem much better at killing our wounded than trying to heal them.
What’s sad for me to watch is this brilliant man who built a great church is now impotent in the work of God because of sin’s great attraction.
How can we so easily lose our heads, our ministries, our families over the passions of a moment? But many have. In fact 1 out of every 5 ministers will fall. It’s the devil’s best weapon to destroy ministers and the church.
What can we do? Pray for your pastors. Get good accountability around them. Check on them, check on their families. This is too important to let this continue.
What now? We are rebuilding. It’s been a most painful 5 years. Over 1,000 people have left our church. Our people who have stayed are discouraged, the staff is tired and the ministry is unfocused. It’s all the results of a leader falling.
What now? We press forward. Care for the people God has given us and move forward, scars, wounds and all, as we attempt to serve God and the people who attend. No church will ever be the same after the pastor falls. No pastor will ever be useful again in ministry after this sin. That’s the reason the devil is so busy about tempting pastors. If he can get them to fall he has won his biggest victory!
Years ago a woman called my wife in the parsonage and said, “I’m going to steal your husband!” My wife, being the wonderful lady she is replied, “Give it your best shot sweetie.” She knew me and trusted God. But honestly, church, this is one of the sins that hurts the church the worse and we deal with it the least. I encourage you to pray for God’s protection of your pastor. He’s under attack, even if he doesn’t admit it. He needs your support and your prayers.
Ok, here’s the good news…or rather the bad news….no, maybe it’s good news….wait, I’m not sure. But here is the reality you must prepare for- your church WILL change.
You will see good friends leave.
You will see new people attend.
You will watch a new pastor come in who will be different. Yes, I said it…he will be different. He won’t be like the pastor you lost.
Things will change.
It won’t feel the same. It won’t be comfortable for a while. You may even wake up one Sunday morning and find that you don’t even want to go to church.
You will “feel” different than you did before.
The young adults in your church will be discouraged, disillusioned and angry. You will have to help them, talk to them, pray for them.
You will have to meet new people. People who don’t know the pain you have been through.
There will be sad faces for a long time….it’s hard to walk away from this kind of earthquake, especially when the former pastor has not repented.
You may even find that some of the other pastors in your church will leave as well. Men you really like, but the price of this sin is just too much. They are tired, hurt as well, and just ready to “start over” somewhere else.
Things will change. Just know that there will be one who will never change- that’s God himself. He will help your church through these dark days as you watch your church change.