Category Archives: Church

Again….

Again I face the fall of a pastor.  Each time I have to deal with this in a church, in a life, it’s hard.  It’s messy!  Lives are shattered, tears are shed, families are destroyed and faith is shaken.

I think that is the very reason Paul warns Timothy, “FLEE immorality!”  It destroys far more than we could ever imagine and we can never make it right again.

Maybe this should be the first lessons for any new pastor.  Here is what I would tell them,

  1. Sex is enticing, exciting, fun….for a moment in time.
  2. You are a target
  3. You will be tempted
  4. Sexual sin outside of your marriage as a pastor is a sin
  5. The price is far higher than you know
  6. The tears are more than you can imagine
  7. The damage will never be repaired “as it was before”
  8. It’s not worth it!!!!
  9. If you think you can “get away with it” you are wrong!
  10. FLEE sexual sin

There’s my short list.  Every pastor taking a new church needs this drilled into his head.  In one of my early churches I had several women “chasing me.”  I was scared to death of the sins that would result and ran for dear life.  But a few years later I left the ministry for some time away in business and suddenly the attention from women stopped.  I realized, to my surprise, that it was my position they were drawn to and not me.

This is spiritual warfare and it is one of the most effective weapons of the enemy.  If he can get you, as a pastor, to fall then he destroys much more than one life, much more.

So, what I say to anyone thinking about the lure of sex outside of marriage is this, “FLEE!!!!!  Run for your life.”

 

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What about the wife and children?

This week I received this question:

“How do you console the wife and children of the fallen minister?”

We all have to admit, when a pastor falls, that a death has occurred.  It’s a death of a man’s position, ministry, voice and possibly even his marriage.

Because of his visibility and his sin we often focus our thoughts and discussions on him, but what about the wife and children?

Who takes care of them?  As my questioner asked, “How do we console the wife and children..?”

Console is the perfect word!  For the wife it’s as if she has experienced a death.  It’s a death of her marriage, her trust in her husband and a death of his vocation. How will they pay the bills? What will they do now? Where will they live? How do we deal with the shame?

The church often treats the wife as a part of the problem and discards her as they do the pastor.  Out of sight, out of mind, thank you very much.

But the church’s job is to care for this “widow.”  She has lost her husband, her identity, her role as a pastor’s wife.  She has lost everything!

How do we console her?  We must care for her as we would someone who has lost a partner to death.  We must come alongside her, be with her, bring her meals, pray for her and love her well.

Love her as you would love and care for a widow.  Come alongside her kids, spend time with them, help them.  Encourage the wife.  Help her with her transition. She has lost everything, don’t abandon her!

How do we console her?  Just as we would someone who has lost a mate to death….because it is a death.  A death of everything she has known.  And, above all, love her well.

Humble reconciliation

One of the things that rarely happens when a pastor falls is reconciliation.  There is simply never closure on the sin that destroyed his life, family, another family and the church.

This morning a friend and I were visiting about reconciliation and God’s work in our lives.  It made me ask…who have I wounded and not reconciled with?  And so I offer this note for your response, for your consideration.  If it’s something that applies to you in your relationships with me would you offer me the opportunity to pursue reconciliation in our relationship? If it’s a reality in your life, your family, or your church would you use the following paragraph to heal wounds, mend relationships and demonstrate the love of Christ to others?

Share these words with someone you have hurt,

“I’m thinking through the people I’ve known and cared about for many years and fear that I have left something undone with you.  Are you and I “ok”?  My goal is reconciliation, the healing of any wounds I may have caused.  Is there something between us that I can address, deal with or repair?  Have I offended you in some way and left you wounded?  Please do let me know.  And thank you for the grace you give me to be broken and still on the journey to become like Christ.”

I wonder what would happen if we humbled ourselves and took the first step to healing wounds in our lives and the lives of others.

Update for March 2013

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!

The NEXT pastor

man-silhouette.svg_.hi_Welcome to 2013!  A new year.  A new beginning.

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.

Spiritual warfare

“Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.”  -Ephesians 6, THE MESSAGE

Church,  I have to tell you (but I’m sure you already know) we are in the last days.  And in these last days spiritual warfare is increasing in intensity like never before.  The topic of this blog (and my own odyssey as a pastor at a church where our pastor fell) is all about spiritual warfare at the highest level.  There is no greater victory for the enemy than taking out a pastor of a church.  In doing that he succeeds in destroying the work of God, if only for a while, in that pastor’s life and in that church. It disheartens the parish, shames the church in the community and confuses (sometimes beyond recovery) some who are new to the faith.

The world is glad to laugh and mock a pastor who falls.  It’s vindication to them that they weren’t “fools” to be part of that “Christian thing” and the church goes through a time of spiritual warfare that is more intense than many could imagine.  Now, for us 6 years out, we are still in the midst of intense spiritual warfare.  It’s tiring, discouraging, disheartening.  It makes you want to give up!

Paul writes, “Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own.”  He was so right!  The enemy has found, through the fallen heart of every pastor, a way to destroy or at best cripple a church.  Pray for your church. Pray for your pastor. You need to know he’s under heavy attacks from the enemy and especially so if he teaches the bible and invites people to trust Christ as savior.  Our greatest weapon is prayer.  Our greatest ally is God himself.  Our best offense is to simply stand, pray, trust God and continue to preach Christ.

In case you wondered the church is the front lines of spiritual warfare.  The enemy is working in the life of your pastor to destroy him, his family and your church.  Pray for him, encourage him, care for him and yourselves.  Pray for each other.  Watch out, be prepared, pray.

The scattering tribe

Today I sent a note to one of our pastors who has left us and just got the perfect job for him in another church near here.  He is one of at least six staff members who have left the church since our earthquake.  Not all of them left for the same reasons, but a tight group of men and women have scattered to the community and beyond since our pastor’s fall.

The same thing has happened in our church body.  Literally hundreds scattered to other churches or no church at all.  The tribe called our church family has been seeded to a dozen different churches.  As a pastor and shepherd and frankly the last man here from the original team this has been hard to watch, but what I know is this is God’s church.  We are simply shepherds caring for HIS sheep, his people.

If you find your church in this place of watching the pastor fall realize the church will scatter, friends will leave, staff will move on.  It happens.  And yet, in spite of all of this the kingdom of God marches on.  Grieve a bit, sorrow over the loss, but continue to serve God and reach the world wherever he places you.

It’s never “ok” to let the fall of a pastor give you an excuse to leave the church completely.  You might be disappointed, discouraged, angry, hurt.  All those feelings are normal.  Work through them, love one another as a body of believers, be honest with one another and don’t let the devil win the battle to destroy the body of Christ you are part of.

You will see your tribe scatter.  Stay in touch, love them even if they leave, trust God and serve HIM.  In spite of all that happens when a pastor sins and all that will happen in the years ahead God is still the Lord of heaven, earth and your church.