Category Archives: Pastor

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.

Is this the new “norm”?

One of the comments posted recently asked the question, “is this the new norm?” and I thought it worth a few words as you deal with your situation and church.  The truth is that our fallenness, our sin nature and the results of it haven’t gotten worse…they haven’t changed with the times.  Men and women have always been this bad, but what has changed is the nature of pastors and their response to sin.  We seem to “play closer to the fire” than we ever have before.  Somehow men in the pastorate think they can tempt this sin and not get burned, but the devil is very good at what he does.  He will make you think you are helping a hurting soul and quickly pull you into the fire of sin.

It’s not that this is our new normal.  This is always the way the human heart has been.  What has changed is our view of sin, temptation and our ability to handle it.  We can’t handle this temptation any better now than we have ever been able to, and yet some think they can “tempt the fates” and it won’t hurt them.  But it does.  Read Proverbs 5-7 for insight into this kind of foolish thinking. Three chapters written over 3,000 years ago reveal the very heart of our foolish nature to tempt sexual sins.

So what do you do when your pastor falls?  One response from a saint who posted a comment was shame.  She was ashamed of her church, but why?  It was the pastor, not the church that fell.  Use that sin as an opportunity to talk about how weak we all are and how much we each need a savior and others around us to help us deal with temptation.

Some will run away.  Let me encourage you to not do that.  Stay, pray, encourage, help the pastors who are left to pick up the pieces and don’t run away from an opportunity to see the redeeming work of God in your church and church family.   These are terrible things, but God is wonderful and loves to redeem.

And, as I ramble about on this post let me say just this one thing….in a culture where we say “do what you want, it’s all ok as long as you don’t hurt anyone” it is quite interesting that in this area, in the sin of a pastor, the culture who demands tolerance is the first to throw rocks….how interesting that is to me.

So, is this the new norm?  No.  There are still Godly men following the Lord and fleeing from sin.  Just because some fall doesn’t mean you should run away.  Stand, pray, encourage and tell the world, “This is the very reason we needed a savior!”

Sin is messy (follow up…)

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!

bill

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.

Broken trust

It never struck me until now.  I had missed it and only recently realized what was happening.  Now, six years later, I realize that one thing that was lost when our pastor fell was trust.  Trust was broken and only now do we see the effects of broken trust in the lives of the people in our church.  It shows up now because a new idea is being introduced to our church family.  What we discover happening is that our people who aren’t sure this is a good thing are going to the Internet for information about it instead of talking to us.

Why?  As I watched this and prayed about it I suddenly realized that this is the result of something that happened six years ago and has yet to be resolved.  The people who stayed lost trust in our pastor when he fell and have never dealt with this breach of trust in their lives.  Now, when something new is talked about in our church family, they don’t trust us to care for them.  They don’t trust us to have their best interest in mind.

Broken trust was nothing I expected to still be a problem all these years later, but what it reveals is how pervasive one sin is as it ripples through a church family.  Now, six years after the fall of our pastor, trust is still an issue.  My visits with members of our church family begin with this question, “So why are you afraid?  What do you think we are going to do?”  And from that beginning it becomes clear that at the core of all of this is a trust issue.  They don’t trust us!  If they couldn’t trust the pastor who fell why should they trust us?

The fear we are seeing over a small and insignificant issue has its roots in trust.  Now we must deal with this broken trust and the fear that has resulted  in the lives of each one we visit with.  We are still in the middle of this so I’m sure there are other nuances we must confront, but honestly I have been surprised to see that something we took for granted had been lost six years ago.  Now, we must go back to foundational issues and reestablish a trust in the shepherds of our flock.

Broken trust is another ripple in the tidal wave of a pastor’s fall.  If you are a member of a church where a pastor has fallen realize you have a trust issue that you will have to resolve if you are to grow in faith in your life.  If you are a pastor of a church where this is part of the history realize you have some work to do.

Right now I’m in prayer for our church family that they will each be able to deal with the fear that has come because of broken trust.  I pray that we will once more become a place where the sheep feel safe with the shepherd taking care of them.  There is much yet to do….even six years later.