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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Mike
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Category Archives: healing
“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.
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.
More than a year ago I got an e-mail from a pastor’s wife. Her husband was discovered to be in an affair. It destroyed their marriage and their church, but it didn’t destroy her. We have corresponded often in the last 15 months as she has grieved, cried and healed. Last night this dear lady sent me a video, a moment of celebration. She was invited to speak at the women’s conference at the church she now attends. It was great to hear her speak, to see her share a bit of her story and God’s work in her life.
In spite of the sin of her husband, the failure of her marriage, the loss of ministry, she has walked with God, trusted him to heal her and grieved as she needed to. Now God is opening new doors of ministry she never imagined. It was wonderful to see her speak. She talked about the failure of her marriage, the heartbreak and the anger everyone feels towards God when it happens. She also talked about God’s work in her life as she walked with him.
I can’t wait to see what God does in her life. In spite of the devil’s best efforts to destroy this dear saint she is walking with God and trusting him to use her and he is!
Healing is possible. A new beginning is the way God works….he is a God of new beginnings and if we let him he will work in our lives, heal our pains, dry our tears and give us life once more. Is there ministry after an affair? Is there hope? Can God redeem what the devil has destroyed? YES! My friend is proof that God is a God of redemption and healing. I’m so proud of you Dawn!
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.
Many are stopping by to read this blog. That’s encouraging.
Many are suffering from the fall of a pastor. That’s not encouraging.
Some don’t know what to do next…stay in the church, leave, give up on God completely. That’s discouraging!
What is your experience? What is happening in your life as you travel this difficult road? Take a moment, if you stopped here on purpose, and share your story. It helps others to know they are not alone in this difficult walk.
I received a comment from a reader that we need to talk about. He said that the topic of repentance is rarely discussed when talking about the sin of a pastor.
I would agree with his observation.
Repentance is rarely discussed because in most cases, when a pastor sins, we don’t get the opportunity to deal with or see repentance. The pastor is dismissed and the church tries to survive the tragedy. We rarely get to resolve these sins in a biblical way. Most people in the church where the pastor sinned will either leave or simply try to “move on”. Although repentance for the fallen pastor is part of his healing we may not see it and seldom have a chance to encourage it. Frankly I know that it often takes years for repentance to happen in a pastor’s life if it happens at all.
But there is more to this process if we are to heal properly. There are other things that should happen, but will rarely be done in this kind of sin. The church not only needs to see and be part of repentance in the pastor’s life, but there is reconciliation, restoration and recovery needed. Few of these, although all needed by the church, will actually happen. So the church limps away from the sin of a pastor and gradually tries to heal.
Are there things left undone? Yes. Should we pursue repentance, reconciliation, restoration and recovery for the fallen pastor? Yes, but honestly the wounded body cannot do much of this right away. It takes time and the next task for the church body, after the pastor leaves, is trying to survive what has happened!
After the pastor is gone how do we biblically pursue repentance? Reconciliation? Restoration and recovery? From my experience, as I have watched our church go through this, I find that we still have unfinished business. The wounds of a pastor’s sin and the results in the body make these important issues difficult to accomplish. Do we need them? YES! Will we achieve them? Not often.
So what do we do knowing that these are needed for the fallen pastor and for the church? Pray, forgive, heal and trust God for the day when the final chapter of the story will be a pastor who has repented, is reconciled to the church family, restored to fellowship and a church recovered from the wounds of this sin. It will be a day when the fallen pastor can attend his former church and be welcomed with smiles and hugs. There is much yet to do isn’t there?
I received a comment from David about a fall in his church. Here are his comments and then I will add a few thoughts of my own,
“Our pastor came to the head deacon & told him to call the sheriffs department and then confessed to embezzling all the church’s funds. Then we get to watch the drama unfold. What I’m watching unfold is how people are making it about themselves. The pastor let me or us down and all the other comments that come with an anger that is self centered. I’m not surprised, our pastor is a man just like the rest of us. I’m not mad at him and I don’t see the issue to be money and betrayal like they are making it out to be. Pastor and his family should be our concern as far as I’m concerned. Everyone is making it about them. The pastor is Satan’s primary target. I’d like to ask these people how many prayed for pastor and his family on a daily basis. When the other pastor or deacons stand in front of the congregation and start crying about how hurt and let down they are. Am I missing something here but it’s not about them. I believe the Bibles tells us our first responsibility is restoring pastor back into the family of God not finding out why he took the money. I only ask why is because if he has another problem we need to help him with another issue.”
David asked some great questions, made some very insightful comments and sees the issues well. The problem that happens when a pastor falls, either to immorality or fraud, is an intense wound suffered by people in the body. Sadly we elevate our pastors to a place we should reserve for God alone and so when they fall we are more wounded and take the sin personally…..we feel the sin was against us! When we are hurt in this way we have chosen to sin as well and blame it on the pastor.
When this ripple effect of sin happens it’s really hard to isolate what is really wrong with the church, who needs forgiveness, who needs to repent and how to fix the problem. Another big problem in the story David described is pride. Pride “muddies the water” so it’s even harder to sort out what to do. In a situation like this a church needs to pray and pursue corporate repentance. We all need to humble ourselves and ask for God’s forgiveness.
Sadly this usually doesn’t happen. The pastor is the scapegoat, the church claims to be the wounded party and pity the poor pastor who next takes this church. So the problem is clouded and the church becomes impotent.
I will be praying for you and your church David. Repentance, restoration, forgiveness and love for one another is God’s desire. When we divide, destroy and selfishly proclaim our own wounds we do nothing for the kingdom of God. Sadly I see too many churches “killing” the wounded pastor instead of drawing them close, loving them, restoring them and demonstrating the love of Christ to the fallen man or woman. I pray we can see through our own wounds and bandage the wounds of our fallen leaders.