The Bell Curve, John Piper, John MacArthur, and Others

This is a post I’ve been wanting to write for a while, but until tonight, I was never able to put it into words. In my upcoming book, I talk about the unrealistic expectations that are placed upon a pastor and the stress it causes him. Many of the unrealistic expectations come from within the pastor. He thinks he is supposed to be superhuman. He thinks he is supposed to be a glorified man, almost free of sin. That is absolutely unreasonable.

I love John MacArthur. I started listening to his sermons when I was 14. He shaped my theology at a very early age. I remember the first time I heard John Piper. I thought, “That guy is amazing. How can someone be that holy?” When I heard him at Together for the Gospel, I wanted to be like him.

I promise, I tried. I wanted to be like my heroes of the faith. I heard not only them, but other giants of the faith calling me to a life of holiness and greatness. It seemed unreachable. I was a wretch. My sin was great and they seemed like giants compared to me. The distance between me and them was terrific.

Then, two years ago, I fell morally from the ministry. I was assured of the distance.

I was talking to my wife tonight about these great men and I came up with a theory about my heroes of the faith. I think it helps.

There are thousands of pastors who strive to be like John MacArthur, John Piper, Albert Mohler and R.C. Sproul, to name a few. However, they see in their lives a million things that are wrong, sinful and keep them from being like those men. Daily, these thousands of pastors beat themselves up over their sins and hate themselves over their wrongs. They place high expectations on themselves, wanting to be like their heroes. Don’t deny you’ve felt like this. Wanting to be like a certain hero of the faith. This is not an attack on our heroes, this is an affirmation of the thousands of pastors who are very ordinary.

I spent years in the pastorate wondering why I wasn’t like my heroes in the faith. I wondered why my life didn’t model theirs. I thought if I acted like them and preached like them that I would eventually be like them. But I now know that was folly.

Ever hear of the bell curve? It’s a formula that lets us know that most of us are extremely ordinary, some are very unordinary, and some are superordinary. The bell curve, as you see illustrated, is used to let us know about the  intelligence quotient in our society. The vast majority of us are of average intelligence. Very, very few are genius.

I’d like to think that people like MacArthur and Piper are geniuses of our time. That’s not to infer that we shouldn’t strive for sanctification. However, they are a rare breed. You know it’s true. Feel free to open up a volume of Jonathan Edwards and know that in his day, he was set apart in his time as well.

My fear is that thousands of minsters are setting their barometers upon what MacArthur and Piper are doing. We are placing unrealistic expectations upon ourselves based upon five minute video clips of our favorite pastors, when we should be looking at what God has for our lives instead.

God has a specific plan for the very ordinary among us. Believe me, there are thousands of ordinary pastors among us who can make a tremendous difference. We won’t ever have a television audience, CD ministry, or ever publish a book. But God has seen fit to place us where he has us.

God hasn’t called thousands of men to be like John Piper or John MacArthur. He’s called us to be who we are. Special and unique, although we may seem ordinary to the rest of the world. Who did Christ call to follow Him? Fishermen. Tax collectors. Zealots.

I praise God for the ministries of great men who have risen up and caught our fascinations. But that will not be the calling of most of us. Most of us will be toiling in the small to medium sized churches, loving people, preaching week after week with no great admiration. And that is fine. If we are to be a Sunday School teacher, a minister, a counselor or a pastor, we should model our calling after Christ.

Our peace comes knowing that we are following what Christ has called us to do. Be ordinary. Be yourself. Be who Christ called you to be. And that should be good enough for any of us.

The Plumber’s Sin vs The Pastor’s Sin

Fallen pastors go through a series of stages after their fall from ministry. It’s a topic that consumes a lot of space in the manuscript for the book I’m working on.

Fallen pastors spend a lot of time being angry and justifying their actions – at least many of them do. I know I did. Anyone caught in sin, as we all know, have the same reaction. Whether we get caught stealing, lying or breaking any number of God’s laws, each of us has an instinct to further sin and justify our actions. In our self-justification, we often become angry at those whom we have hurt and are angry with us.

Several of the fallen pastors I interviewed for my book (as well as me) had a response like this: “The local plumber, architect, or attorney can commit adultery and no one cares. But if the pastor does it, it’s the worst sin imaginable. He’s thrown out of church, everyone gets angry and forgiveness is never granted to him.”

There is a lot of truth in this statement. However, as time has passed and repentance came, I realized that there were better ways of looking at the situation.

First, people do still gossip and talk when others commit adultery. However, when the pastor falls, the volume does get turned up. There is a reason for it. Scripturally, more is expected from church leaders than others. They are to be “above reproach.” When they are found to be otherwise, it can be an awful shock to those who placed their faith in him as well as a chance for an unbelieving world to cast doubt upon the message of Christ.

One of my angry arguments used to be that the church shouldn’t be any more angry at the layperson who committed adultery and was allowed back in the church after forgiveness than they were the fallen pastor. That might be a poor choice of words. But it cannot be denied that pastors are to be expected to be held to a higher standard as overseers of the flock. Does that mean that Bob the plumber doesn’t have to follow the ten commandments? Absolutely not. It does mean that a pastor is ordained to be a church leader. A shepherd. He is Bob’s leader and has a responsibility to display a life of righteousness inside and outside the church.

This doesn’t mean the pastor is “better than” Bob. It just means he has a life that is supposed to display qualities of biblical leadership that people should be encouraged to follow.

There are other leaders in our society who are held to a higher standard as well. Politicians, for one. Recently, I blogged about Congressman Anthony Weiner and his fall from office after inappropriate Twitter conversations with women other than his wife. It should be noted, I don’t care for politics. But as far as I’m aware, there is no moral rule regarding politicians. There have been immoral politicians since politics began, regardless of party, and each time there are people with demands that they should step down.

My point is this – there is no rule for career politicians to be moral, as far as I am aware. But there is a law for God’s people. All of God’s people. The law is the same but the standard is higher for leaders. “Let it not even be spoken of you.”

There is another matter, one of forgiveness. When a Christian violates God’s law and repents, forgiveness is available immediately. Our God is just and loving and will forgive. We may not escape the consequences of our sin on earth, but we may find His peace now.

The sin of a layperson will probably not hurt a church as much as the moral fall of a pastor. When a pastor falls, the repercussions last for many years. The fallen pastors I speak to tell me that decades later, they still have not found reconciliation with their former church.

Though the moral fall was great, we are still called to find reconciliation and walk with those who repent. It’s not a recalling of that pastor to the same pulpit. But it is a recognition of that person’s true repentance and saying, “we forgive.”

But, like repentance, forgiveness is not something that can be demanded. Both must come as a result of the conviction of God. However, both glorify God and the redemptive work of His Son.

I Love My Wife, And I Love The Church

The last two years have been a trying time.

If you had shown up at my door two years ago and said, “Ray, after your fall, you are going to fall hard. People are going to reject you. Hate you. You will feel fall into depression like you’ve never known. You will think even God hates you.”

I would have looked at you like you were a crazy person.

But after two years of searching, repentance, writhing in sin and at points, even wanting to end my own life, I have found forgiveness.

I am sorry for what I did to my ex-wife. What I did to my former church. If I could stand before them today, I would tell them, “I am sorry for hurting you.” My ex-wife has forgiven me. My children have forgiven me.

But all that is behind me.

Why? Because a year ago, my God forgave me. He set me free. He covered me. By the love of His Son, He set me free. I don’t expect anyone to understand it or accept it, but He did it. I am no longer a fallen pastor. I am a forgiven, free child of God. My website becons people to come visit me to I hope they do. But I am no longer a fallen pastor. God no longer sees me as that. Because of justification, He looks at me and sees His Son, Christ.

I don’t deserve that.

There are former church members who read my blog. I hope they know that forgiveness is available for all who cry out to all who believe. I’m no longer the fallen pastor. I’m Ray Carroll, fallen, redeemed and set free.

At this moment I am perfectly loved by a woman who is also set free. No more guilt. No more hiding. She is able to love because Christ loves her for who she is.

One day, all those who are equal in Christ will reunite together and worship Him together. Despite our differences here, we will worship Him together.  I hope before that day, we will be able to reconcile and love each other now.

Christ loved the lepers, the outcasts, the children, the poor of heart and the adulterers. If he were here today, he would reach out to those who were the poor in heart before he reached out to those who were proud of heart.

I love you, former church members. I am sorry for what I did. I grieve for my sin. I will ache for what I did for the rest of my life. But I want to reconcile now, today, with you. To alleviate the pain. Let’s not sweep it under the rug any longer. We had eight wonderful years together. I’ve made amends with my former wife. So please, for the sake of the church, let’s make amends now.

I am poor of spirit. Poor of everything. I am sorry to you all. Please. Let us find resolution. Let us find something. So we may all heal.

Another Fallen Pastor, More Judging.

I just read a story about Zachery Tims, pastor of a megachurch in Orlando, Florida. Never heard of him before tonight. Apparently, he was found dead in New York from a drug overdose. The article I link tells of his roller coaster past.

He had one of the largest churches in central Florida – over 7,000 members.

As a young man, he was in and out of jail.

As a pastor, he had started a youth center  in 2005 in hopes that it would help kids stay out of trouble.

In 2009, he and his wife divorced after he admitted to an affair with a stripper that had lasted over a year.

Funny how a man’s life can be summed up in less than 500 words. However, the public can chime in and say whatever they want these days in the “comment” section. Here’s a sampling that made me weep:

Oh Brother Tim’s we forgive you. That white powder was baby powder you were handing out to un-wed mothers. The hooker you were boffing was just a misunderstanding,you were really administering to her soul. The prison time you spent was just a test of your faith. It’s a shame that the woman you were married to for 15yrs. turned out to be such a bad person. Imagine leaving you after all that time just bcause of an alledged affair, where is that womans faith Rev. Tim’s?

Hypocrites, Most of these right wing church pastors and their flock of sheeple, love money more than God.

RIGHT ON! This guy was up to no good-he probably is warm enough where he resides now. ETERNITY IS FOREVER!

The paper reported that Tims had been in and out of jail as a young man… In 2009, Tims and his wife Riva divorced after he admitted to a year-long affair with a stripper. Sounds qualified to me to tell others how they should live their lives, eh? Petty criminal and a cheat – just what you’d want standing in the pulpit……. Sheesh.

I don’t know this man. I don’t know his theology or his life or his ambitions. However, I do know one thing. It’s not right to throw stones at a dead horse.

None of us knows his heart, the pressure he was under or what changes he had made in his life. All we know about him is what we read in 500 words. It sure is easy to judge a man by a news article.

How would any of us feel if someone were given a brief, 2 minute synopsis of our life then were allowed to judge us quickly based on what they heard? I doubt we would like it. Did this man make grievous errors and sins? Absolutely. He sinned and messed up tremendously. However, it is not for the public to judge. It is not for us to “comment” on. All of us are wretched and if our lives were to be openly displayed online for public comment, we would fare no better than Zachery Tims.

It is very easy to comment anonymously from our computers on the downward path of a fallen pastor who strayed with a stripper and died from a cocaine overdose than to look within our own wretched hearts, isn’t it? Each of us are lawbreakers. If our secret lives were displayed so openly, we would have to run for cover while people bombarded our Facebook and Twitter accounts with harsh, unloving messages for months.

So I might suggest to commenters at large . . . you’re not any different than a fallen pastor. All of us are hypocrites. Just some of us have further to fall.

Guest Blog: Joy Wilson

[It’s an honor to have my friend and fellow Civitas Press author, Joy Wilson guest blog today. Check out her new book Uncensored Prayer: The Spiritual Practice of Wrestling With God (available in paperback and Kindle). I’ve gotten to know her online and she is a remarkable woman. The floor is yours, Joy . . .]

The Divorce

by Joy Wilson

“I’m getting a divorce,” she said, arms crossed like a shield over her heart.  “I don’t want to talk about it, but I would rather have a best friend than a husband.”  Then she left.  In and out my kitchen door in sixty seconds flat.

I knew better than to run after her.  Katharine keeps her true feelings buttoned up tight, and the fact that she came to tell me in person meant a lot to me.  This girl’s known for her loud mouth and silent heart, and I couldn’t for the life of me tell if she was callous, angry, or heart-broken.  She and her husband are kissy-face with each other on Facebook, and their posts the previous week had been no different. What happened so suddenly? Nothing.

A divorce doesn’t heat up in a microwave.  It simmers for a long time until everything good boils away and the pot cracks.  Love, trust, and respect leak out the holes, and the situation may seem irredeemable. “Nothing is impossible with God” can sound like a bad joke.  I know.  I’ve lived there.  But what I didn’t know years ago is every marriage comes with booby-traps and a self-destruct kit you don’t have to be taught how to use.

There’s a dormant seed in each significant relationship that will sprout when fertilized with enough evil – evil meaning anything that doesn’t look like our loving God.  Pain and injury are unavoidable, but damage control is possible if both parties are willing to participate in the healing process.  It’s the practice of inflicting pain over time that finally kills.

I don’t know what happened between Katharine and her husband.  They’ve only been married two years, but things can disintegrate really fast, especially if the glue is water soluble.  It’s easier to bolt than struggle through difficulties.  In similar situations, I’ve run, lied, cheated, abused, and been abused.  I did this enough times until I gave up on half the population, and vented my rage at God.  I thought I had given up on marriage.  What I didn’t know was I had given up on myself.  Over time, I faced the fact that my best plans and ideas had never worked, and I finally asked God for help.  I had become teachable, and learned that I am a precious woman of great value, capable of having a wonderful marriage if I allowed God to change my heart and teach me healthy ways to interact with men.  No new marriage was ever promised. But then I met Bud – a friend of God.

For almost twelve years now, Bud and I have shared the marriage I’ve always wanted: realistic, but filled with love and respect, and we do whatever it takes to keep it alive and well.  God is first in our lives, followed by our relationship.  Even our children aren’t second in that line-up.  I know this may sound weird, but I love my soul-bond with Bud more than I love him.  Unlike Katharine, I’d rather have him as I husband than as my best friend.

I have three best friends: Bud and two “girlfriends”.  We share confidences and enjoy each others’ individual company. Each one meets different heart’s desires in my life.  Of the three, Bud and I have a unique partnership because of co-habitation, sex, joint finances, and family, embraced by commitment to God and each.  That last part makes all the difference when I’m really pissed at Bud and want to tell him to get the f… out (for an hour or two).

Katharine would rather be “right” than be right with her husband.  Even when we each think “I’m right”, Bud and I have decided to seek a solution that’s mutually beneficial for both of us.  I would much rather run from this responsibility sometimes, or use words like a weapon.  But I haven’t so far, and pray I never will, because I know Bud and I are fully capable of destroying this beautiful marriage.  I’ve also learned that God can resurrect the dead to new life, but we have to be teachable and unselfish.  We have to be willing to cooperate with God and each other.  We have to be willing to heal.

Katharine, if you’re living in hell, I wouldn’t want your marriage either.  If you’re running because you’re not “in love” anymore, or life together has gotten tough, I wish I could convince you that your next marriage won’t be any different unless you change.  I learned the hard way that God alone heals broken hearts and relationships, and I pray the day will come where you fall flat on your face, if that’s what it takes, so that you can learn that, too.

Joy Wilson is the author of Uncensored Prayer: The Spiritual Practice of Wrestling With God (Civitas Press, 2011). She and her husband, Bud, are two life-long hippies.  They live in Bartlett, TN, with six cats, two dogs, and a timber wolf hybrid.  Joy is an Outlaw Preacher and an active participant in Kairos Prison Ministry.  You can usually find her at home writing or intently reading history and mystery books.  Contact Joy at and on Facebook (website is under contruction).

Milestone Celebration!

My book length is supposed to be at least 60,000 words.

I just got to word 60,000. Woo hoo! For those keeping score at home, the 60,000th word was “those.”

Anyway, I have more writing to do, an initial first edit of my own for grammar’s sake, then a first read by Allison, then another personal edit.

I feel blessed right now. Even thought I don’t have a subtitle yet…, Sexual Addiction, and Church Faces

In writing my book, I have interviewed many experts. I want to share their words with you, faithful readers, each time I interview them. However, I have to wait until publication.

I do, however, want to let you know about an amazing ministry – They are on the forefront of the battle against pornography and how it has infiltrated the minds and souls of evangelical men, pastors, and our children.

I did a 30 minute interview with Jake Larson who has helped many people and known several fallen pastors. I don’t think most church members know the impact of pornography upon the evangelical church. I saw one survey that said 60% of pastors had viewed pornography in the past year. I think the percentage is even higher.

Most of the men I have interviewed for my book have confessed a problem with pornography. I have even dealt with it in my own life in the past. It is a very serious issue and a secretive one that most men are able to hide from their wives, children, and churches.

For my book, I interviewed Kailla Edger, a psychiatrist. She has a groundbreaking book called, “Losing the Bond With God: Sexual Addiction and Evangelical Men.” In her book, she set out to interview men who were simply evangelical church members. Ironically, when she had her sample set in place, all of them were leaders in the church. They were Sunday School teachers, deacons, elders, and other types of leaders. They were addicted to pornography.

Interestingly, these men were asked to be leaders in the church because they had a look of “holiness” about them each Sunday. They were actually hiding their sin. I don’t judge these men at all. But I am telling you that sexual sin is rampant in the evangelical church.

In our interview, Jake Larson said the following: We can’t shut down the $62 billion worldwide industry but we can take customers away by bringing awareness, prevention and recovery to the church. So we beg churches to talk about the issue. We beg churches to get honest and real about it. To recognize it’s comfortable nowadays to have a drug and alcohol recovery program in your church but pornography doesn’t work the same way as all these other recoveries. It’s so much deeper and personal and it’s fueled by so many family circumstances, childhood experiences. Unless we’re really honest about the issue, we’re not going to get people to talk about the issue and address it. Demand that the people you lead and the staff that you’re responsible to are not just held accountable in a way they can just skirt by but that you’re helping them by making sure there’s a safety net set up and in place in the church.

We have a serious problem. We go to church each Sunday with our “church faces” on. But behind those faces, people are hurting, struggling with past issues, grieving, and some of them are addicted to alcohol, drugs, and pornography. I wonder when the American church will ever begin to get real in the place it matters most – in the sanctuary of the living God.

He sees right through all of us. He knows our every weakness yet loves us anyway. Why are we not able to be real with one another?

I pray for truthfulness, integrity and a sense of reality. May we learn to share our sins together (because we will learn we all have the same ones), may we learn to truly grieve together, and may we lay our church faces at the door and be who God sees us to be when we enter our places of worship.

Cats and Church

We have a cat problem.

We have KitKat, our orange two year old kitty who is scared of his own shadow. He stays in the garage. He’s scared of all of us, but will let you pet him when you give him food.

Recently, we have added two strays. Pearl, who is jet black and is lovable and kind. He’s about 10 months. He nuzzled up to us with some trust and kindness and stays mostly on the back deck.

Then, there’s Buttercup. He loves to eat and will beat the ever loving crud out of KitKat and Pearl to eat their food. He’s a stray as well and is about 10 months old. I keep telling Allison, “Buttercup is okay. He’s just an animal. He needs to eat and doesn’t know how to play well.”

The problem is feeding time. We put KitKat’s food down in the garage and Buttercup comes rushing in and trying to fight her. Then, when we try to feed Pearl on the back deck, same problem.

Tonight, I looked out the front glass door and saw Buttercup, pathetically crying for food. Allison isn’t a fan of Buttercup.

She said, “Isn’t it sad we have to set aside three different feeding times so that the three different cats don’t kill each other? Buttercup would kill the other two just to get their food! It’s like we have to accommodate everyone’s needs just to make all three of them happy!”

I didn’t think about the words when they came out of my mouth. I promise I didn’t.

I said, “Sounds a lot like trying to be a pastor.”

I didn’t mean it . . .



That was tacky, as my mother would say.

Pride – The Good Kind

Last week, I was in Kansas for my grandparent’s (my dad’s side) 70th wedding anniversary celebration. We had a good time. I got to see relatives I haven’t seen in a long time and they got to meet Allison for the first time.

If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you probably know my Dad (nicknamed “Sandy”) and I had trouble getting along for a long time. We never quite saw eye to eye from my adolescence on. We had a terrible break down after he and my mother divorced, then he died from an accident a year before my Mom died in a separate accident.

We had a chance a couple of months before he died to have a nice lunch and we started a new relationship. After everything I’ve been through, I miss him a lot. He had a lot of trouble telling me he was proud of me. I don’t know why, I guess he just never had it in him. Over time, I’ve just learned that some people don’t express themselves like that. I’ve also learned that he was very human and made a lot of mistakes – just like I have.

Allison and I were at the reunion looking through a plethora of photo albums. In one of them, my grandmother had put together a book of major accomplishments that people in the family had done. There were weddings, awards, etc.

I turned to one page and saw a picture of my “Small Church Pastor of the Year Award.” I scoffed a little, thinking of how little that really meant anymore. But then I looked at the email above it and how my grandmother had gotten the picture in the first place:I stood there, held Allison and cried. Of course, my first thought was, “I wish he had told me he was proud of me.” But at least he was. He had trouble saying it, but that didn’t mean that in all of our problems, in all of our arguments, in all of our heated exchanges, my Dad loved me and bragged on me.

I sat next to my sister when they were taking photos of my grandparents and their three children. Dad was the oldest and he was missing. I swelled up again with tears, but held them back. He’s missing in this life, but he’s not far from my heart.

An imperfect man, yes. A sinner, yes. But I can identify. And like him, I know I’m doing the best I can now.

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