Category Archives: restoration

Regret

“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.

What do we do?

I received this note from one of our former members today.  It was very interesting to receive this more than six years after our pastor fell.

“After Pastor’s awesome service on Grace and how God loves no matter what (at another church) , I turned around and saw T— (our fallen pastor) and his wife. I was truly taken back. I wanted to hug him. That experience, our discussions after, and of course God having a hand on me really shaped me.”

Even after all these years people don’t know how to respond to T—.  He’s a saint, saved by the grace of God, who fell into sin and yet we don’t know what to do with him.  I told my old friend who sent me the note, “Do hug him next time you see him. It will really help him. Ok?”  He may have fallen, but he’s forgiven and growing in faith.

How do we deal with fallen pastors?

When do they get to be forgiven by us?

How do we connect with them?

I’ve seen this as I’ve pulled my old friend and pastor back into relationship with me.  He was deeply wounded, not only by his sin but also by the response of the body of Christ.  It’s as if some would have “strung him up” if they could.  Unforgiveness, bitterness, discomfort and avoidance were the responses he encountered and sadly still does at times.

So, what do we do?  As a body of believers, we don’t do well with forgiveness and reconciliation.  We don’t know how to extend it, what to do about the “sinners” in our midst.  What do we do with a fallen pastor?  A man caught in homosexuality? A friend addicted to pornography?

What do we do?  We seem to think we must be the moral police and protect God’s reputation, but that has never been our role.  We are called to forgive…up to 490 times!  We are to be known as the forgivers…why? Because we have been forgiven so much.

So, what do you do when you encounter a “sinner”?  Approach them, hug them, love them, accept them….it will be like pouring burning coals on their head, because it will be painful for them, but we are called to imitate Christ and he was the master of forgiveness.  Even on the cross he said, “Father, forgive them…”  So should we!

When you encounter a fallen pastor approach him, love him (not for his sin, but because Christ died for him) and extend grace.  You will surprise him and that’s a good thing!

Shame

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.

Bill’s story

Often I get notes from pastors who have fallen.  They tell me of their odyssey and how they are doing now.  This morning I received a note from Bill with his story.  I asked his permission to share it here because he has done the difficult things, he has returned home to his church to find restoration.  (On a personal note let me extend high praise to Bill’s church for how they have handled all of this.) Here is Bill’s story in his own words,

I have been reading your blog this morning as I sit at my new job as a teacher for a Junior High School.  I feel like there is so much I would like to say but will save opinions until I am asked.   I will give you a synopsis for what I have done and what I am doing and the path it took to get here….

My failure has been my entire life.  I was taken as a child and put into foster care and orphanage at an extremely young age.  I have no bad memories at all of my early childhood as I have no memories at all up to the age of 5, the day I moved in with a family that became my home.  I had no idea that my biggest wound and hurt was neither my foster days nor the orphanage.  My biggest wound was brokenness of Intimacy and trust that honestly I never even knew I had.  All I knew was that everyone else was valuable and wanted and I wasn’t.  So I worked very hard at everything I did, including my faith.

Ok, so here is my story…

This past December (2011) I called my wife and told her I needed to talk with her.  We got in the car and drove to a nearby parking lot where I told her I answered an ad on Craigslist and the woman who responded was trying to embezzle me for money to keep silent.  She told me everything about my life (she had researched me) and wanted money to keep quiet.  I told my wife that I was not going to give her anything and that I wanted to come clean about my life.  I did not confess much at all, I actually lied and made it seem like this was a porn issue.  I told her I wanted to tell the leadership of our church, knowing I would be fired.  She was very concerned about me doing this but I told her I really wanted to get some counseling about some deep seeded wounds from my childhood.  She agreed and we told the leadership.

The leadership at first said they would let me resign and would give me a severance for time served (over 8 years) and would pay for counseling.  I was so excited!  What happen next rocked my world and my family’s world.  The pastor asked if there was anything on my computer that was inappropriate, as he would be having it analyzed by professionals to make sure.  I told him there should be nothing on it.  I don’t know if it was denial or my mind blocked out what I had done on the computer but I wasn’t trying to lie I just really didn’t think there was anything on it.  Three days later I was called to a meeting and they had opened all my personal emails that I had through yahoo.  They knew everything…. completely!  They then told me they had gotten my wife from work so I could tell her everything.  I did this and fell apart!  They took me to a hospital because I wanted to die.  They admitted me to a mental hospital for 4 days to make sure I wasn’t going to kill myself. I really didn’t want to kill myself I just didn’t want to live anymore.

While in the hospital the leaders of the church and my wife discussed what to do about me.  They sought council and decided it would be best to send me away to an inpatient program designed for addictions.  This was a Christian based place just north of Atlanta, GA. I spent the next 3 months there.

While in Atlanta this is what I experienced…

– I hit rock bottom and truly repented and confessed fully my sins.

-20 plus hours of 1 on 1 counseling

-480 hours of instruction in a classroom setting

-No less than 100 hours of group counseling

-I discovered my woundedness and got professional help in understanding myself

-Read 12 books assigned me about sexual brokenness

-Did a full disclosure to my wife who flew in to see me

-Experienced a public confession of what I had done

-Did counseling with my children

-Had a touch from the creator of the universe

-Came to peace with trusting God about my family

-And so much more!

I say all that to say – I did the hard stuff to the best of my ability.  I was there with 25 others who I can honestly say never reached brokenness – but I was broken fully!

When I left my church the pastor was angry and told me I could not set foot on church property again.  He said this out of his anger and honestly felt like I had lied and deceived him about the computer and therefore was protecting the church.  I understood this and agreed.

While I was away the church leadership was amazing.  They demonstrated the love of Christ for my wife.  They paid for her and my children to fly to see me and get the counseling we needed.  They helped her with bills and truly loved my family while I was getting help.

While away, I felt God was telling me to quit hiding.  I felt like God wanted me to return to my community, where I was very well known and my sin was public knowledge (a letter was sent to the congregation about my failure).  I moved home to the town in which I failed.  I went to the leadership team and apologized. I told them all that I had experienced.  They welcomed me back to the church as a part of the body.

This is what I did…

-I got a job

-I attended a small group with my wife (they embraced and loved us)

-We attended Sunday Morning worship (very difficult)

-I met with different men every day for the first 2 months for accountability

-I met with a staff member 1-3 times a week for the first 3 months

-I went to counseling weekly

-My wife and I went to counseling together

-My wife went to counseling

-I lived with friends for the first 2 months I was back and spent the day at my home

-I continued my care with the program I left (weekly call and journaling)

-I continued reading and learning about myself

I have learned so much about who I am and about my wounds.  It’s very sad to think that I was extremely successful as a pastor while all along being so wounded.  I am now healing and free from some deep issues in my life.  I believe God has so much more for me and I am excited to see what they are, BUT for now I am being obedient in living in my community where everyone knows what I’ve done and I’m working hard on my family, with my wife, and in my relationship with God.

I know its unusual for a pastor to come back to his hometown and walk it out in front of his congregation (by the way I was the youth pastor) but I feel like this is what God has called me to do.  My desire is to walk out restoration fully – whatever that may mean!

I am willing to answer any questions.  I share my story with any who desire to hear it.

In Christ and Living Free,

Bill