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: pain
“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.
I wrote an earlier post titled, “Sin is messy”, and in that post I made a statement (from the weariness of this odyssey) that one of my readers disputed. I agree with the correction I received from Bill and want to share with you the comment exchange from that post with Bill’s permission:
Bill: I am concerned with your statement that “There is no good that comes from a pastors fall! None.”
I fell flat on my face. I came to the church admitted my failures and fell hard… here is what has happened in spite of my failures;
-i got help and healing from some deep deep hurts that i did not even know existed
-My wife and i have an honest real relationship which is 100 times better than either of us ever thought we could have
-people around me are getting to see what grace and love means – not just from a theoretical perspective but from experiencing grace and love.
These are only the positive and good things that have come from my failures. I am not saying for one moment that it was Gods will for me to fall in the way that i fell. But what i am saying is that it is very very very short sighted to say that NOTHING GOOD can come from a pastor who falls. God used example after example of Gods faithfulness not only to men in the Bible who have fallen but of his Grace Mercy Forgiveness and Love of HIS people who fell in the exact same way.
Do i wish i had not fallen… YES but i am so grateful to have walked through my misery and because i did i am a new man.
I am a Fallen Pastor but because of a loving church and loving family who understands God and family – i am a better man and a better disciple!
Me: Bill, you know what….you are right. I recant my statement. It strikes me, as I read your words and then reread mine, that I am still stinging a bit from the sin I have lived through here. I thought I had dealt with it all well, but obviously I haven’t fully dealt with all that happened to me through the events of our church family. It’s more damaging to those around the pastor who fell than most ever realize, than I even realized. Obviously I am still dealing with the weariness of the battle and some resentment for all I have had to go through…although I had done nothing wrong. A little bitterness remains that I must deal with God about. Thank you for your words and thoughts. What a blessing to read how God has worked in your life. God is so good to resurrect dead and broken lives, isn’t he? May I share your words in one of the posts? Thank you, Bill.
Bill: Yes you can. I want you to also know that as a pastor who fell i have worked very hard and have been incredibly humbled by what i have gone through. i will probably never fully understand the hurt and pain that my church has gone through.
This is what i did to help myself, my wife, my kids, my church…
-three months christian live in facility for addiction (HopeQuest in atlanta) Mid December – early March
– 14 months of counseling (and counting) for myself once a week.
– 14 months of marriage counseling every other week.
– first 3 months after coming home 1-1 accountability 7 days a week with men from the church.
-6 weeks living with friends after returning back to my community while i worked on restoring wife and kids.
-Went back to my home church as a congregant and sat in the audience weekly (soooo humbling).
-i had work to do for HopeQuest for 6 months after finishing in order to graduate (which i did 100%).
-got involved in a small group of our church that met every other week.
-met with other fallen pastors once a month (had to quit this when i began working full time- they meet lunchtime).
As much as i am grateful for the opportunity to deal with who i am and what i have done to my wife, kids, family , and church. this has not been easy. I have chosen to be obedient to God in returning to my community and church. Obedient because this is what i felt God was calling ME to do. Everyday i live with the reminder of what i have done. I am learning humility in a way i could have never imagined. i am learning brokenness in a way i could have never imagined. I am learning Grace and Mercy Kindness and Love in a way i never thought was possible. i am learning the deep humbling understanding of what it is to fall and be forgiven!
you can share any and all of whatever you want that i have written. i believe we have an opportunity to see the kingdom of God grow through failure – and i am the greatest of all failures!
New American Standard Bible (NASB)
8 Keep your way far from her
And do not go near the door of her house,
9 Or you will give your vigor to others
And your years to the cruel one;
10 And strangers will be filled with your strength
And your hard-earned goods will go to the house of an alien;
The cruel one. What an interesting wording from this passage about adultery and promiscuity. In the heat of passion with a pretty woman a man may fail to realize he’s also about to suffer the wrath of the cruel one. I’m fascinated by that wording. On one hand affection, passion and love of a woman who isn’t your wife. On the other hand the wrath, anger and hatred of the cruel one using this affection to destroy you.
Few men in the pastorate realize that behind the kisses and affection of a pretty woman who says she loves you is an enemy who says he hates you. What you see as your “soul mate” is actually the perfect weapon of the enemy of your soul whose only goal is the destruction of your life, your marriage, your ministry and your church. In a moment of passion and affection he can accomplish all of that!
Church, realize that behind every enticement to unfaithfulness, to an affair, is the cruel one in the shadows smiling at the opportunity to destroy everything you love. If you find yourself attracted to a pretty face, an affectionate glance, someone who “really cares about you” realize that behind that person is another, the cruel one, waiting to destroy everything you care about.
The cruel one wears his name proudly. He has no mercy, no care for you, your wife, your kids, your church or your life. His great deception for you is that this affection, this affair is real and will satisfy your empty soul, but all it will do is destroy everything. Solomon’s words are a vivid picture for anyone in the pastorate!
“Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.”
-Paul, 1 Corinthians 11:1
Paul did something I have not seen others do. He offered himself as the model of what a Christ follower should look like. As I read these words this morning they once more stopped me to think about what that would look like in my life and yours.
Paul was so confident that he understood the Christ life and was living it that he invited others to follow him and imitate his life. “Boys, just watch me and do it like I do it” would be Paul’s words to a young disciple.
It demands two important things in a life, 1. that you know what a life lived as an imitator of Christ looks like, and 2. that you are actually living that way. It demands a clear map of the route and a confidence you are on the path as a disciple yourself…that you are in fact imitating Christ.
But this is exactly what we are supposed to be doing in our lives, isn’t it? Dads, are you telling your sons and daughters, “just watch me live the Christian life and you will be ok”? Pastors, are you inviting others to follow you around and imitate your life, your words? You should!
Paul has given us the foundational principle of discipleship- modeling. “Imitate me as I imitate Christ” are heady words to say to someone. It means you must know where you are going, what it looks like, and actually be going the right way. It means you know that others are watching you, following you, imitating you.
If someone is imitating your life will they get it right? Will they be a follower of Christ or a deformed version of one? Have you invited someone to imitate you as a Christ follower? If not, what do you need to change? Where are you going that you wouldn’t want another to follow? Are you modeling Christ for others to follow?
This is our greatest need in the church today…men and women following Christ and inviting others to imitate them in the way. What do you need to change to make that offer to another? Could it be that most of us don’t know where we are going in the first place? If you have never offered this invitation to another what must you change to invite another to follow you?
“Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.” What an amazing invitation from the pen of Paul. I’ve never been invited to follow another in this way, nor have I made the invitation. I wonder what would change if we did…….and this very discussion is the reason a pastor’s fall is so devastating to a church. He is the one we are following. When we discover he is not on the right path it brings disappointment, confusion and loss of faith.
We, as pastors, are to model Christ. When we don’t the disaster that follows is devastating.
We are a proud race.
We all try to look good to others.
Pastors are not exempt from this pride. We are not only playing to the congregation, but we are “competing” with other pastors around us. Pride is a wicked master. It focuses the camera on us and not on God, it responds to praise and avoids criticism. Pride is one of the reasons that honestly about our sins is so hard. We don’t want to deal with the results of sin in our lives.
The ugly side of pride is shame. Our pride makes us hide our sins so no one will know, no one will find out. In some way we think God doesn’t see either, but he does. And in the revelation of our sins shame comes. A shame that we have lost the admiration of others, but hopefully also a shame for what we have done. There are two sides to shame, the shame of loss and the shame of sin. One is healthy, the other is not. When sin is revealed and shame is part of our new reality the number one task is to come before God on our knees and share with God all that pride and sin have done. He already knows, but there is no better way to deal with shame than to open it up before God.
Shame dealt with well brings repentance. Shame dealt with badly is just another face of pride. When sin is revealed the best response for any of us is simply this, “Lord, I am the man. I deserved the cross you bore for me. Thank you that you have already forgiven me because of what Christ has done. I am sorry. Let this shame I feel bring me before you in repentance each time it comes and let me become one who rejoices in your grace once more.”
Use your shame rightly. Realize there are two sides to this thing called shame. One is an aspect of pride that wants to hide what we have done. The other is a right response to our sin and makes room for the restoration God wants to accomplish in our lives.
You need to know that shame is a healthy part of any sin. It’s how you respond to the shame you feel that makes such a difference in the outcome of your life and walk with God.
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 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.