Many Apologies To Those Who Have Tried To Email

I just got an email from Hotmail that told me to login to my account that I use for this site. I count on Hotmail to forward my emails to my iPhone.

When I logged in, I realized Hotmail thought I might be a spammer. They haven’t been forwarding my messages to my iPhone since January.

Of course, it’s my fault for never getting on a “real” computer and checking. But I missed a lot of important emails. Those of you who were reaching out for help, people wanting to interview me about the book, even a television network

I am very, very sorry. It’s my oversight and neglect, but I hope the problem is now fixed. Honestly, I even had two emails that I’ve sent out in the past two days that weren’t going through.

However, with my view of sovereignty, I know there’s a reason for it. (Please, please, please, God, let there be a reason!)

I had someone offer to upgrade my site and I’m hoping that will happen soon. Thank you all for being so patient. You’re fantastic. I really am here to help. If you ever email me and I don’t get back to you right away, send me a comment in the comment section. I won’t publish it, but I’ll get it right away and email you back.

Better yet, I’m adding a page for this blog where you can reach me directly by clicking a link. Hope that helps.

God bless you all.

The Shift: Time For A Change

I have not blogged in a while. Sorry for that. I’ll get to my point in a minute.

I’ve been editing my book after my publisher sent my manuscript back. I figured something out. I don’t get to the point quick enough. I’m very bad at dancing around the issue. I’ve spent two years apologizing for my sin. Yeah, I’m sorry for what I did. I really am. But, there is a larger issue at stake. There are a lot of pastors out there who are falling day by day.

They aren’t falling because they’re just sinful men. They don’t just wake up one day and say, “Hey, I think I’ll commit adultery.”

These men are called by God and are serious about their mission. They are serious about the church. They love their wives, their family and the church. Yet, after years in the ministry, they fall. Why? It’s a problem, isn’t it? Friends, it commands our attention.

There has to be something going on. And there is. There are several factors in place that leads to their fall.

However, don’t ever hear me say that these men’s sin isn’t their own fault. It is. But there is a culture out there that is contributing to their downfall. It needs to change and it has to be challenged. And starting today, I’m going to stop apologizing for my sin. I’ve done that enough. I’m going to start calling out the culture that leads to the fallen pastors downfall.

I’ve mentioned it before and I’ll say it again. 1,500 pastors a MONTH leave the ministry due to conflict, stress or moral failure. And they fall off the grid. Often, we never hear of them again. My concern is for those who leave for moral failure.

Our conventions, denominations and committees are content with leaving them behind. I am not. I have spoken with these men. They are left behind with hurt, pain and brokenness. Some are able to pick up the pieces and able to restore their lives. But some are not. Some are working in secular jobs searching to find reconciliation with their former churches and to the God they once served.

Let me start today with this thought.

Very few people in the church are able to forgive the fallen pastor. In fact, after speaking to many fallen pastors, I would say that around 1% of churches were able to forgive the fallen pastor for his adultery.

I understand that a church would be hurt by the pain caused by the betrayal and pain that a fallen pastor leaves behind. The fallen pastors I have spoken to have ranged from 3-30 years from when they left their church. No reconciliation was to be had. None.

I’ll blog more about that later.

What I have noticed is that there are some people within the church who are able to forgive. They act outside the 95% of the church who are angry at the pastor, but they do reach out to him.

In my talks with fallen pastors, and in my own experience, it shows me that there is an active church culture that tends to place certain expectations upon a pastor. He is placed upon a pedestal and when he falls, the fall is great. The expectations are great and he may even agree to them. When he does not meet them, they abandon him. They are unwilling to forgive and place him outside of the community, without any sort of dialogue.

But there are a few who do not operate within this culture. They reach out to the fallen pastor. They see him as a human and not as an idol or as a man on a pedestal. They are kind and say things like, “I love you, regardless of your sin. You are still my friend.”

There is a dangerous culture that needs to be changed. Hopefully, in time, we will begin to see it.

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 fallenpastor.com. 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.

Sermon: What I Wish I Had Known Three Years Ago About Forgiveness

I got to preach last Sunday. It was pretty sweet. When I preached before, I’ll be honest. I took it for granted. I go months between chances to preach now. Before, it was all about me. Now? It’s a very humbling thing.

It covers things like, “When are we supposed to forgive? Who are we supposed to forgive? Am I supposed to leave a door open for someone who isn’t repentant?”

Sorry about the low quality audio. But if you close your eyes, you can pretend like you’re in a rural West Kentucky church. That’s where I was, thanks to my good friend Bro. Jimmy Stewart and Salem Baptist Church. Hope you enjoy.

(It’s only 32 minutes long…)

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:

 

The Drug I Crave. Three Little Words.

I’ve talked to a lot of fallen ministers who are trying to live a life of repentance. There’s something we all need badly. But we rarely receive it.

Three words that for some reason are hidden from view. People hide them in their hearts like they’re a gold piece in a falling economy. Or even when a broken pastor approaches them with the most humble apology imaginable, they still withhold those words, even if they are able to say them.

“I forgive you.”

Fallen pastors yearn for those words. Some have been waiting to hear them ten or twenty years after a fall. Some have given up on hearing them and tell other fallen pastors, “Don’t hold your breath. They won’t ever forgive you. And if they do, they’ll never tell you. It’s easier for them to forget you than to forgive you.”

But the broken minister in his heart knows the Scripture. He desires for reconciliation. He desires for peace. Even though he knows things will never be the same, he knows that God’s people are at their best when there is forgiveness.

Those three words are the second hardest to say (behind “I’m sorry) but they complete the healing process.

They are a healing drug to the wounded pastor. The pastor who is trying to repent, to live, to heal. Trying to go forward although the memories of those around him keep dragging him down. Although his Scarlet Letter would imprison him, he fights daily from sunup to sundown to be free because of what Christ did and not what he did.

But each night before he goes to bed, each night in his dreams, each day as he recalls the events – even years later – he craves the drug of those words, “I forgive you.”

Knowing, “I forgive you” doesn’t equal, “I accept you back in my church” or “I want you back in the same role in my life as you were before.” No, “I forgive you” simply means one thing.

It simply means, “Christ gave me all I have and forgave me everything. The least I can do is forgive you being human like me.”

For the hurt, wounded, broken pastor, there is an addiction to this drug of forgiveness. There is probably no relief coming soon. However, there are thousands of people who are able to dispense his remedy.

A Message From The Past

Allison and I are in beautiful New Orleans enjoying a business/personal vacation that is well needed for us. It’s a good time of quiet and rest.

It’s given me time to reflect on my book and the process of writing and my attitude over the past couple of years and hopefully how I’ve changed. My relationships with people have gotten better, but I still have a long way to go.

Last night, I got up during one of my usual restless spells and checked my email and saw there was a comment to be moderated for my blog. I didn’t publish it. At first I thought it was from someone who didn’t know me who was just trying to push my buttons, but they knew too many details.

It’s from one of my former church members. I’m not typing this out to make a point about them. I’ll get to my point in a minute. Here’s some of the text:

“I’ve read your blog a bit, along with your wife’s. Now, The lord loves honesty and that’s what i’m going to give you. My opinion: You were a horrible pastor, just as you are a horrible writer. Now I sit there in the pew nice and quiet like, but goodness gracious when you were going on and on about the same old thing for 45 minutes, I almost fell asleep. And I never fell asleep in church before then, and I sure don’t now. I mean good Christ mister, how many times you gotta say that relationships are the juice of the lord’s loins? Spit it out junior.

But I did like that part where you cried. Just cried and cried and cried. Oh Lordy, I laughed my dentures out. Now that Allison, she’s a doozy of a *****. Now i shouldn’t be so judgmental, but i am. We all have our faults and the lord will forgive me. He’ll forgive me, for thinking that you’re a hypocritical piece of ****. I have alot more to say but, i think instead of telling you, i’m a gonna write me a little blog titled “Church still disgusted with the fallen pastor and his **** wife”, Under my username “God hates you”. Everything is hunky dory for you right now son, but just you be a waitin. The lord aint gonna punish you foolish kids fer your actions but theres this here thing called karma and shes a big ol’ ****, and some day soon.. she’s gonna find you. Word of advice, I hope you were at least smart enough to choose a church that has a pastor whom is too old and unattractive for your ******wife to seduce, be careful there partner and if things shall get rough, DON’T LET HER GET MARRIAGE COUNSELLING FROM YOUR PASTOR. DON’T DO IT.
With Love,
A former member of ******** Church.”

I didn’t publish the name of my former church and won’t ever mention it on this blog. There’s no purpose in it. I was the one who sinned. They have every right to be angry. And one bad email from one angry person doesn’t mean all of them feel that way. Several of them have been very kind to me and it has made my heart glad.

On to my point, this email didn’t make either of us upset. Six months out of my sin, it would have ticked me off terribly. In fact, I wrote a passive aggressive letter to my church that I never should have written about a year out. I hadn’t fully repented and I was angry at everyone.

The most important thing I’ve learned in all of this was from a pastor who said, “Ray, you don’t get to judge someone else’s reaction to your sin.” Even if they go too far and get angry, start name calling or even shoot me in the head, I don’t get to judge them. Why? Because they’re angry over what I did. He’s  right. I have to extend them grace, patience and love. The same grace, patience and love I want to be extended. The same grace, patience and love Christ extended to me.

You know what? It’s really not that hard when you’ve hit the bottom. Once you’ve lost it all, been at the bottom and all you could see when you were looking up is the hand of God reaching down, you can give the same to others.

For the rest of my life, I will, as David said, have my sin ever before me. There will always be consequences for my actions. I hope that the person who wrote that can find peace in life and with God, and eventually with me. I’m terribly sorry for the hurt I caused them. I’m sorry I failed them as a pastor and pray they will find a contented life now.

For me, I pray for better choices and a life clothed in my redeemed Savior. For me and my beautiful wife.

POST UPDATE:

I got a response from the original writer, same IP address and email. It was a little harsher and needs more editing. Again, I really don’t believe this person represents the feelings of my old church. Several of the people I’ve talked to have been kind to me. However, this response shows the hurt a pastor can cause when he disrupts a church when he falls and the anger that can remain:

Dear Mr. Ray Carrol,

We all hate ya, and none of us want your “grace, compassion, or patience”. You can shove all that right up your devil-lovin’ ***. Also, thinkin’ you’re forgiven for your sin because you prayed for it doesn’t change a thing. You’re still living your sin! Rather than making amends with your family and your ex-wife, you married that cheatin’ Allison! Where’s the regret, the guilt? You betrayed God’s commandments to man and chose to live in adultery. Gettin’ married don’t make it no better. You’ll burn, mister.

Thanks for listenin’, and I hope when you meet the little Baby Jesus and Allah Lord of Lords at the gangplank to the Millenium Falcon with Chewie and Buddha ridin’ shotgun, they greet you with open arms! (otherwise your deviled eggs)

Signed,
Your friends at ***** ****Church

My Response:

The compassion, love and grace I offer is real. I also offer forgiveness to you. Whether you accept it is up to you. I do know that I have been forgiven by God. My sin was great. My fall was great.

I also know that all sin is abominable in His sight. However, thanks to Christ, it is also freely forgiven. Not because of anything I have done, but because of what He did for me at the cross. What grieves me the most is not the sin I committed at my former church or the impact it had. What grieves me most is that my sin was responsible for the death of my Savior. But I am thankful that His grace abounds to save even a wretch like me. I am thirsty for that grace. When no one else seemed to come after me in my darkness, He was there, calling for me.

Before I fell I was pompous, prideful, arrogant and thought I knew it all. Now I realize I knew nothing. All I really need to know is a Savior who gave all for me. I’m still not perfect, still not humble, still not really much of anything. I’m still a sinner. But each day I’m trying to look away from what I want and toward what He wants.

I hope someday you will forgive me and release your anger. I hope someday you will find peace. Maybe you can start by showing what you wrote to me to your pastor and seek his help in studying the Word. Christ wants all his children to be at peace.

What I really desire is what I have been given by a handful of people since my fall and I hope to be given by more who witnessed my fall. It is found in Galatians 6:1: “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.”

That is my hope and prayer.

I Hate Humility, But I Love Transformation

So much has happened in the past week. Just when I think my story is over, something else happens. I just can’t believe this is happening to me. But, it is.

I blogged about dreams last time. I haven’t had a good dream in over a year. I had one last night. I’ll get to that some other time.

Cynthia and I have been looking for a church ever since we had a terrible experience at the last one – not Angel Falls.

We have been visiting the church of my friend Brad – Hope Hills Baptist. He’s a sovereigntist like me. He spends his time three ways – knocking on doors in the community trying to save souls, witnessing in downtown Richmond, and spending time with his beautiful family.

You know how I know Brad is serious about the kingdom? Richmond is a far cry from Angel Falls. As a pastor, I wouldn’t have dreamed about going there and witnessing. He uses the Way of the Master witnessing technique like I did. He’s not going to get anyone there to join his church. You know why he goes there? Because he loves sinners. He wants people to see Christ. He’s not pushy. He’s not overbearing. He just loves Christ. He loves people. You may disagree with Brad and think he’s out of line and should leave people alone. Fine. But he’s got a heart for people. He doesn’t judge. If they don’t listen, he leaves them alone. He just loves.

He has a passion that 99% of pastors don’t have. I didn’t have it. He preaches with a fire that men like Spurgeon and Whitfield had. Lord, is that even a fair comparison? No. I hate it when people do that. If someone could make a list of pastors throughout the ages of passion, some guy from North Dakota who pastored a church who no one ever heard of would top the list, not Charles Spurgeon. It’s not right of me to compare Brad to Spurgeon or Whitfield. If he knew I was making up a pseudonym for him and doing it, he would be embarrassed. He would say, “I’m just a preacher trying to glorify Christ.” But I’ll tell you. In this ragged county dearth of preaching, he’s like Spurgeon. And those of you who are hurting for good preaching, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

Is he seminary educated? Nope. And it’s probably to his advantage. He just loves people.

He told me last week that he had a wife and husband in his office at midnight. The husband was drunk off his butt. He was a gulf war veteran and was screaming at his wife. She was crying. He told me, “I felt like I was in over my head.” But he stayed in there and presented the gospel. The couple left. The man came back three days later and was begging to be saved.

Friends, in the past year, I’ve lost touch with Christ. I have hated church, I’ve hated religion, and I sure as hell hated to see anything associated with the Southern Baptist Convention. But seeing Brad and his passion has reminded me what it’s all about. It’s about Christ. It’s not about me. It’s not about parking lots or buildings or the weekly offering. And I’m downright ashamed of the pastor I used to be. In fact, I want to strip myself of that.

Cynthia and I met with him and told him we wanted to join the church. We told him we didn’t see any other way for us to join but to tell the church what we had done. He agreed. It’s going to be embarrassing this Sunday when he tells them. Cynthia and I had a heart to heart about that last night.

I told her, “Sweetie, in Nathaniel Hawhorne’s classic, ‘The Scarlet Letter,’ Hester Prynne is commanded to wear her ‘A’ on her chest. But the first time she shows up in public, she has embroidered it herself. It’s not a plain ‘A’. It’s adorned with gold and it’s absolutely beautiful. The people are stunned and are awed with her workmanship. She’s taken ownership of her sin. On Sunday, that’s what we need to do. We’ve been forgiven. In that congregation, there will be people there who are/have been/who will be committing adultery. We need to take ownership of what we’ve done. We aren’t proud of it, but God has set us free from it by the grace of Christ. And we can be an example to someone and maybe, just maybe someone can be helped by our story.”

There’s more, dear reader . . .

I told you in the last blog that I called Phillip Townsend. He was the deacon who called the shots after I committed adultery. When he found out what I did, he told me he “ought to beat the sh-t out” of me. We had a rocky past. I blamed him for a lot of my current problems.

Today, friends, I went to him with all humility and grace. I laid myself at his feet. I apologized to him and told him I was terribly sorry for all the pain I had caused him and the church.

As a sidenote, I have talked to many fallen pastors across the county in the past year. 95% of them tell me that for the most part, reconciliation with the church that was sinned against is IMPOSSIBLE. You know what? I’m a hard headed jerk. Today, I proved that percentage wrong.

Humility goes a long, long way.

The only issue I left with is this – Phillip told me he forgave me a long time ago. Friends, if you forgive a person, you need to TELL THEM. If you don’t tell them, forgiveness is not complete. But I understand the process. He also told me he had no intention of contacting me. He said he was going to wait for me to initiate contact. I said, “I get it. I’m a jerk. I would’ve just responded like a jerk, right?” He had a point. There’s a time for reconciliation and a right time to talk to people.

I left Phillip’s home with a good feeling. Does he feel the same as he did when I was pastor? No. Do I think he’s flawed and should have handled it different? Yeah. But you know what? I love him. And one day in glory, we’re gonna have to live next to each other. And today, for an hour and a half, we understood each other. And as a man, I looked him in the eye and I took the initiative to call him and make him meet me.

There’s no reason Christians shouldn’t be getting along in this world. Phillip told me there’s about 30% of that church that will never forgive me. That’s sad. Because if they’re really saved, they won’t like seeing me in heaven.

And when I’m there, I’m gonna rub it in.

I called Brad to tell him that I met with Phillip. He started to cry. I said, “What is it?” He said, “When I met with you and Cynthia last week, I wrote in my prayer journal that I was going to begin praying for you to reconcile with the people at Angel Falls. I just didn’t think that prayer would begin to be answered so quickly.” My faith is beginning to be restored.

By the way, I had a great dream last night. First good dream I’ve had in a while. A very long while. I love airplanes. I was at an airfield with my girls and Cynthia. There was an airshow. And we were free. And we were watching the planes go by. And we were happy.

Forgiveness is good. Do you have someone you need to talk to? Humility is so freeing. Is it hard? Sure. But it will free you from a lifetime of anger, hatred, and bitterness. Do it before you waste anymore time.

Apologizing To Whom?

Found an interesting article yesterday written by the former editor of Contemporary Christian Magazine. It had been three years after Amy Grant’s divorce and the magazine wanted her to apologize for what she had done.

The editor, who was being asked by the publisher to write the article and ask for her apology, questioned the move.

An exchange from the article between him and the publisher:

“Who does she need to apologize to, Gerald?”

“Her fans. Us at CCM. And everybody she failed.”

The article is worth your time. But the topic behind it is also worth careful thought.

When one falls, to whom are they apologizing? David clearly stated after his sin with Bathsheba that he had sinned against God and God alone. However, it would seem that genuine sorrow and offering of a sincere sign of that sorrow to those directly offended would be appropriate.

I can’t begin to tell you how many times I apologized to Cynthia for what I had done. I apologized to my daughters. I even wrote a letter to individual members of my church and told them I was sorry I let them down.

Was apologizing to the church for my adultery necessary? I did not commit adultery against them. I did lie to them, yes, and I apologized for that. But I had many tell me I needed to apologize to them for my adultery.

My sin was made public very quickly. By Cynthia, her family, and by the church. I don’t know if there’s a way around that. Pastors are public figures and when they lie and cheat, sin like that tends to get made public. However, there has to be a time when it stops being discussed by those who were not directly involved in the sin. When the sin itself and the discussion of it turns into gossip and unhealthy talk.

One could argue that my blog is the furtherance of this discussion. A fair point. But I don’t view it that way. I’ve tried to handle my story in a way that is from my viewpoint and how I perceived them. I’ve kept everything anonymous so that those involved wouldn’t be further effected.

There’s a time to discuss sin and situations when it can help others understand seriousness of sin. And there’s a time when it’s simply unhealthy, destructive gossip that seeks to tear down others.

For Amy Grant, I think the editor had a good point. Did she owe her fans an apology for divorcing? Was her private life the business of her fans? Probably not.

My situation was different in many ways. My personal holiness affected my public ministry. I did owe the church an apology for my failing in that way. Many were hurt. An article by Christianity Today states, When a pastor falls sexually, his church responds like a wife betrayed by her husband, experts say.‘”

I am still in the process of asking myself the same questions I am presenting to you in this blog. Hopefully, someone will read this post and give me some interesting viewpoints on the matter.

Maybe I’m wrong. But that’s what this blog has been about since day one. The exchange of ideas. Whether it’s about Amy Grant or me, I’d be happy to hear it.

%d bloggers like this: