“So, You’re The Adulterer!”

(Over the next few posts, I’m going to talk about several reasons why the book “Fallen Pastor” is for anyone concerned about the future of the church. We are in the midst of a crisis and need to understand how to approach it).

I love talking to people who work in funeral homes. They have some of the most amazing personalities. They deal with people and care for them at the worst point in their lives on a daily basis. Yet, most of them have the best attitude when you get to know them.

The other day, I was riding in the pallbearer car back to the funeral home with a lady who helped manage the funeral home. We had been talking a bit and she said, “What do you do?”

We had already talked enough that she knew I worked in sports medicine. What this 50-something woman who knew people really wanted to know was, “What was I doing as a pallbearer at this funeral?”

I said, “I used to pastor this church that most of these people went to.

She said, half-joking, “What did they do? Kick you out?

I had to smile because she probably wouldn’t have asked it like that if she had known. Or maybe she would have. She had a great sense of humor and, like most funeral directors, shot pretty straight.

I committed adultery,” I said.

Her mouth dropped wide open, “Ooooooohhhh!” I thought for a second the car was going off the road as she adjusted her sunglasses. Then she looked at me and said, smiling, “I’ve heard about you.

I said, “Most of it is probably true, I’m sure.” Her statement would have bothered me two years ago, but thanks to a lot of helpful people, time and forgiveness, I just smile.

She said, “You wrote a book! Didn’t you?

Yes ma’am, I did. Did you read it?” I asked.

No, I didn’t think I needed to, I’m not a pastor,” she said.

Well, it’s not just for pastors,” I told her. “It’s for everyone. It’s about learning to forgive, what we expect of our pastors, how we can restore people, how we’re all sinners…

She stopped me and continued my thought, “You know, you’re just a sinner like me. You’re no different. We all mess up. Why is it people find it so hard to forgive pastors?

That’s a great question,” I said. “We are all sinners. I disappointed a lot of people who expected more from me. And they should have.

But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t forgive,” she said with a slight frown.

No, it doesn’t,” I said. “It just takes some longer than others. Hurt can last a long time. I haven’t always been perfect and no one else is either.”

We talked about other stuff on the way back to the funeral home. For instance, I found out it was easier to make creme brûlée than I thought.

She let me out at my car and said, “Thanks for sharing that. You’re a good person.”

I knew what she meant. And I appreciated her saying so. But I’m not good. None of us are. None of our heroes are good. They are all stained with sin and mere moments from a fall. When they do fall, I pray we all have courage to forgive.

Pastors and Killer Expectations, Part 4: Ready? Set? Humilify.

My family went on vacation last week to St. Louis. During the trip, our youngest, Leslie, made up a word. She didn’t mean to, it just came out. And it was pretty funny – she said something like, “Why is that guy being such a tweezernozzer?” A new word was born. Tweezernozzer can be a verb, noun or adjective. “That guy sure is a tweezernozzer.” “Luke, I am your tweezernozzer.” “I’m going to go out and tweezernozzer after I make about $1,000.”

The girls wore the word out from Mt. Vernon, Illinois (the place of the word’s creation) to St. Louis.

I mention it because if you’ve been reading the last few posts, you’ll understand that pastors face killer expectations and need to do something about it. Something serious. Killer expectations come from a lot of different places, they can’t be juggled and you can’t simply cope with them. Killer expectations, if they’re not dealt with, are one of the leading causes of pastoral burnout or ministry failure. It’s a topic I deal with extensively in my book, “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World.”

So what is a pastor supposed to do with these extremely high expectations that come from without, within and can be as overbearing as a category five hurricane?

A pastor has to learn to learn a new word. Like tweezernozzer. But it’s the word humilify. I’m sure the word exists in someone else’s imagination out there. If I wasn’t too lazy to Google it, I’m sure I could find it on the interwebs. Humility is a state of being. And it’s a great word. But I like humilify better. It came to me while I was thinking about this post. The pastor has to actively appropriate humility to every area of his life. There’s not really a word for that. But there is now.

If the pastor is going to delete killer expectations so he won’t be overcome with stress or defeat, he has got to humilify his entire life. In the last few posts, the point has been made that wrong expectations come from the church’s wrong expectations of the pastor, the pastor’s wrong expectations of himself, or the pastor’s misunderstanding of God’s role for him. Worse, if any mix of these is happening, the pastor can become miserable and begin to carry home his unhappiness and it will begin to erode his marriage.

Tell those killer expectations to, “Stay out of the Woolworth’s!”

So what’s a pastor to do with killer expectations? Kick them out the door. I’ve been there and I know it doesn’t sound practical at this moment, especially if you are living in a position where you dread going to work each time the church doors open. But I’ve interviewed a lot of guys and I hope the following advice is a little helpful.

1. Realize you are not in the right frame of mind if you are overcome with killer expectations. You could be on one of two ends of the spectrum as a  pastor. You could become idolized and placed on a pedestal. You can also become beat down with expectations. Neither are good places to be in. Know that you do not see yourself objectively. You think you do, but you do not. You may be angry, upset, tired, exhausted, cranky, irritated, or any number of things and not realize it. Go into this situation knowing you need help from your peers. Peers who understand you. Get ready to humilify yourself to someone you can confide in.

2. Get into touch with God, the one who defined you in the first place. If anyone has set up right expectations for you, it’s God. He has placed you where you are and knows you need help if you are in crisis. If you’ve fallen out of fellowship with Him, return to Him. It may not be easy, but do it. Humilify yourself before him. Tell him how weak you are. You might even have to confess that you’ve tried to do more than He called you to do. He will respond and heal you.

3. Communicate with your church leadership. This part may seem like a nightmare to a lot of guys. You don’t have to tell them all at once. There are a few things that may have happened here. The church might not have communicated properly the job expectations to you in the beginning. Church members may have unwritten expectations that are overwhelming you. Or it could be something else. You could be trying to be superpastor. Either way, you’ve got to tell them. Tell them before it burns you out or ruins you. You’re not at that church to ruin yourself or offer yourself and your family as a sacrifice to the gods of overworking. Humilify yourself to your church.

4. Talk to your wife. My mentor used to tell me that a wife has something that men don’t have that is more valuable than gold – intuition. Humilify yourself to your wife and just tell her about how you feel. Tell her about the expectations and what you plan to do about them. Tell her about your plans to communicate with others. You might just discover how smart your wife is.

5. Don’t stop humilifying. When this process is over, it’s going to be easy and fall back into old habits. Don’t do it. You have to remove yourself from it by replacing the old behavior with a new one. Instead of trying to meet old expectations, strive to humilify. Ask yourself, “Why am I desiring to do this new task? Is it for me, for the body of Christ, for my edification, or for someone else’s?” Pastors do a lot of things under the guise of false humility. We will do extracurricular tasks that we know no one else will do and before long, we are over worked and over stressed. The entire time we are doing it and ignoring our families we are telling ourselves, “It’s okay, it will help someone.” Don’t do it anymore. Humilify. Seek God first. Ask Him. If He has a program or activity He really wants done, He’ll find someone to do it, right?

Pastors and churches, we’re here to work together as the body of Christ. Humilifying together. To seek His glory. No one person in the church should ever be overwhelmed with an entire load of work that burns them out so much that they want to pull their hair out. Christ has called us to strive and thrive together.

Pastors and Killer Expectations, Part 3: How to Cope

How can a pastor cope with killer expectations? He can’t. If you find yourself coping, you’re not doing it right. You need to go back and read the first two posts on this topic. Coping is getting by. It’s like using one oar to paddle a cruise liner through the Bermuda Triangle. It’s not going to happen if you just try and “cope.”

You want to know how you need help? If half of your bookshelf is filled with titles like, “How to Manage Conflict in the Church,” or “Burnout in the Life of the Pastor.” You have got to get help. More than that, you’ve got to change your lifestyle and how you communicate with your church.

Let’s go back for a moment though. In researching my book, “Fallen Pastor,” I did a lot of research. Before my fall from ministry (long before I ever even thought about committing adultery), I lived the life of the stressed out pastor. I knew stressed out pastors. I still do. And after I fell, I talked to a lot of fallen pastors who told me that one of the factors that was part of their lives was high expectations – killer expectations.

So what do we do about killer expectations before they catch up to us? I want to address how it appears that most pastors deal with them – wrongly. I’m a seminary educated guy. I understand the purpose of seminary. It’s a theological education. There were a few practical classes spread out in there for good measure. But for the most part, I didn’t learn how to manage expectations or people.

I was surprised about how little I really knew about how to deal with people after two years of ministering. During that time, I was talking to a church member about seminary. I was dealing with some conflict in the church and she asked, “Didn’t they teach you how to deal with that in seminary?” Not really. I didn’t even learn how to cuss in Greek effectively so they couldn’t understand what I was saying to them when I got mad.

Where does a pastor go after he has a bad Sunday? You know, after the church gossip tells him that she heard from her aunt’s friend that he hadn’t visited Miss Suzie in three months when he had just seen her last week. When two deacons approach him separately about some problems with the music leader. When a trustee wants to meet with him on Tuesday about a “budget problem.” When two ladies want to talk about VBS issues at the same time. When four Sunday School teachers tell him they’re all going on vacation – next week – and can he please find a replacement? When three new families visit for the third time that day and he hasn’t gotten around to visiting them yet for very good reasons. When during the invitation time, he thought he had prepared a good sermon, but felt he had just been flat.

Where does he go? Who does he talk to? How does he manage all these killer expectations?

Most pastors are taught to not form close relationships within their church. I don’t know where this comes from, but ask any pastor (if they’re willing to be candid with you) and they’ll tell you it’s true. I wrote about it pretty extensively in the book, so I won’t discuss it heavily here. I think it comes from the idea that if a pastor makes close friends with someone in the church, they might turn on you. It can happen. Some people can turn on you and some pastors learn this the hard way. It’s also true that solid friendships can be made within the church. In my experience, though, most pastors don’t form strong relationships with families in the church.

How about staff members? For pastors who are blessed to have staff members, some can have a close relationship with their fellow pastors on staff. Again, I’ve heard the same thing. Some keep them at arms length while others nurture a close relationship. I’ve talked to guys who are pastors at large churches and many of them are content to be a CEO type and run it like an organization. They have great prayer time at their weekly meeting and let everyone attend to their own projects each week. It’s difficult for anyone on staff to meet the expectations they have and nurture any kind of relationship.

What about fellow pastors? In a lot of communities, there are meetings among the local pastors. Some of these are fruitful and interesting. Sometimes, these meetings turn into internal contests of envy. Some guys love to compare congregation size or budget allocation. A lot of guys don’t. For some pastors, they brood internally, looking at what other men have instead of dwelling on what God has trusted them with. On the other hand, I’ve seen some pastors have a great relationship of accountability and trust that extends all the way back to seminary.

So who is left? I get the feeling that a lot of pastors (for the first few years) go home and complain to their spouse. It’s like many occupations. Who else gets to hear what went wrong that day but your other half?

When the pastor comes home the question, “How was your day?” is not met with, “Oh, it was a blessing from God! It was an amazing pouring out of His Spirit!” Nope. Instead, the wife gets to hear after a Sunday service, “What a horrible day. You’re not going to believe what that busybody Helen said to me. Those deacons were meeting over in the corner. Who knows what they were talking about!

The pastor’s wife might have just had a wonderful worship experience and not have even noticed anything was awry. So for the first few years of pastoral experience, she may be in shock when her husband complains. When I interviewed these men, the pattern was unmistakable. They said after a few years, their wives just stopped listening. Either that, or they told them to stop telling them about what was going on at church. Honestly, I can’t blame them.

Most people don’t see church from the pastor’s high stress viewpoint. When he hits the door, he has to know that his wife may not see it that way either.

That’s one of the reasons the pastor has to learn how to do more than just cope. Coping isn’t going to work in the long run. It won’t cut stress, it won’t help him manage his life and it won’t make him an effective leader.

If there are killer expectations, the pastor has to go to the root of it and find out where they are coming from. Are they originating from a misunderstanding between him and the church? Are they there because he is placing too much stress on himself? Is there sin in his own life? Does the church have unrealistic expectations of him? A lot can be solved with communication. That communication may not be easy at first, but it may save a serious problem in the long run.

Don’t cope. Thrive. Excel. Know that Christ didn’t put his leaders in a position to fail miserably and lead miserably. He has placed them there to lean on Him and glorify Him in all things. He didn’t put them there to go home every night and complain loudly in front of their spouses or kick the cat. He has many plans for his leaders. Success everyday? No. But he has promised us peace amidst the storm.

Next time: Wrapping it all up – what do we do with all these killer expectations?

Pastors and Killer Expectations, Part 2: Can They Be Juggled?

You’re a pastor. It’s finally your ‘day off.’ Another week of preaching, sermon prep, visitation, phone calls, crisis management, complaints wrapped in sugar coating, leadership meetings, and time of prayer behind you. A day to yourself. Maybe you’ll start by spending time with your family (after you make a few phone calls to church members who are recovering or ill) or maybe you’ll finally finish that book you started six months ago.

Then it happens. Your cell phone rings. It’s ‘you-know-who.’ Yeah. That church member. The one who never gets off the phone in under 30 minutes. But if you don’t answer it, you’ll hear about it later. Or you’ll get six more phone calls the rest of the day until you do answer. Your heart pounds. Maybe they’re calling for a real good reason this time. Maybe there’s been a death. Maybe there’s a real crisis. “But it’s my day OFF!

You answer the phone, muttering to yourself, “Pastors don’t get a day off…”

Pastors face a lot of tasks. Can they all be juggled? Easy answer. Absolutely not.

The last time I saw someone juggling was a dude who had eight flaming chainsaws. And he was a professional. Even then, I wouldn’t recommend it. It took an amazing amount of concentration and he got at least four days off a week. No joke. Can a pastor live, thrive, and lead the flock whilst “juggling” tasks that are primary to the health of his own spiritual life and the church? No.

If the pastor is going to merely survive for a while, then come crashing down to the earth and burnout, then absolutely. Feel free to juggle. That’s what juggling is. Having at least ten things in your hands, but only having each of them come into contact with your attention for mere seconds. Can it be done and mastered over time? Sure. But I don’t recommend it. It can lead to failure as I chronicled in my recent book about fallen pastors.

Pastoral tasks need to be managed wisely. I’m not here to tell you how to manage your time better. There are better men than me who can tell you how to do that. But I can tell you this – if you are a pastor and don’t know what your church expects out of you, then don’t get upset when you’re juggling those 16 tasks later that you’ve put on your own plate. If you’re a church leader and you haven’t given your pastor a good job description, then don’t get upset when he doesn’t do more than preach, teach or basic visitation.

Expectations much be shared mutually between pastors and churches. The church needs to outline their basic understanding of what they expect the pastor to do. You know what is just as important? The church leadership telling the rest of the church what the pastor is expected to do.

I have a friend who was given an excellent job description by his church leadership. Unfortunately, there were a lot of people who thought he was supposed to be in charge of an outreach program when the leadership made it clear to him that the Sunday School superintendent was in charge of it. After about six weeks of infighting, a lot of unnecessary emails and backbiting, they finally got it figured out.

The pastor needs to do two things. First, if he feels he has failings or weaknesses in any area, he needs to be upfront. Not very good at visitation? Fine. Then get help, find someone to go with you or let the church get him some training. But don’t hold back that information. Don’t let the weakness become a point of contention that people can pick at when things begin to go wrong, friend.

Secondly, I think it’s fair for the pastor to let the church know that much is expected of them. Share with them what Christ’s expectations of the church are. Keep it biblical and sound. It never hurts to have a series on roles in the church. What is required of elders, deacons, and members of the body of Christ?

And that’s ultimately it, isn’t it? We are the body of Christ. Any time we have overly high expectations of any human being, we really need to check ourselves. We are all members of the same body, all with different functions, but all with an important task.

But I’ll tell you this, I have extremely high expectations of my Savior. Because He delivers. He has never failed His church. He does expect more out of his leaders, but never more than He has asked of Himself. In fact, what He asks is far less than what He gave to us.

This post is part 2 of a series in killer expectations for the pastor. Part 1 dealt with where killer expectations come from. Next time, I’ll discuss some of the mechanisms pastors use for coping with killer expectations.

Pastors and Killer Expectations, Part 1: Where Do They Come From?

A 2001 Barna study shared the following information: “Church-goers expect their pastor to juggle an average of 16 major tasks. That’s a recipe for failure – nobody can handle the wide range of responsibilities that people expect pastors to master.”

That was one of the most interesting statistics I found while doing research for my book, Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World. That statistic reflects what I believe many pastors feel is the cause of killer expectations – the congregation or a controlling group of church leaders. What I discovered in writing was that blaming one side was incompatible with what was really going on in today’s churches.

Before I wrote my book, I thought I knew a lot about high expectations for pastors. I had practical experience, but it was nothing compared to what I learned after studying statistics and interviewing fallen pastors. If a pastor does not understand expectations rightly, misperceives them, or does not have the right center, he stands the danger of burnout or worse.

It’s important to understand where high expectations come from, where they should come from, how to understand them and how to take it all in. In this post, I’ll address where expectations come from, and at the end I’ll throw in a curveball for those who stick around and read the whole thing.

Where do high expectations come from? Whether you’re a pastor, plumber, architect, ambassador to Korea or stay at home mom, you have a set of expectations you deal with. Specific to this post, if you’re a pastor of a congregation of 20, 200 or 2,000, those expectations are very real and if they get out of control, they can become overwhelming.

Expectations come from many places. First, there are congregational expectations. What does the congregation expect out of their pastor? What did the pulpit tell the pastor when he was hired? Have those expectations changed as the church has grown or declined in attendance? Does the church setting make a difference? Is the church’s set of expectations based on Scripture, bylaws or any written standard that can be measured quantitatively? Do church expectations come from a leadership council or the entire congregation?

All of these questions can help sort out where congregational expectations come from. I had a friend in seminary who pastored a rural church that voted on whether to keep him every year. It had been in the bylaws since a pastor had fallen over six decades earlier. I know of churches who pass out pastoral satisfaction surveys on occasion.

Expectations also come from within the pastor. These are typically the strongest expectations pastors wrestle with. Pastors who are perfectionists are rarely satisfied with the job they are doing. These men often work long hours with the idea in mind that they are never quite fulfilling every need in the church. Somewhere in their brain, they perceive unmet needs among the congregation that they could be fixing or making better. They are hard workers, but without a system of checks, these men experience tremendous burnout.

Pastors can experience several things that can warp their view of expectations upon them. One is pastoral competition or self-competition. A lot of guys love to talk about numbers. When pastors meet, they may not say it, but they intrinsically measure success by the number of people in their congregation or total budgets. While many give lip-service to the idea that, “I’d be happy preaching to one person each Sunday,” there seems to be an innate drive to move forward to the next big thing. Even if they aren’t comparing numbers with other pastors, a lot of young pastors are taught a business model of church where moving on to the next big position is just a natural progression.

Of course, this isn’t always true. There are always exceptions and we all know of men who are content with the congregations they serve. The point here is that this drive from without or within can lead to a warped view of success and high expectations.

The final place expectations come is from God. This is where proper expectations should come from. God has a high expectation for those He calls. 1 Timothy 3:1-7 is the most common passage quoted when listing the moral qualifications for an overseer:  “The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.” (ESV)

There is discussion over some of the specific ideas in this passage, but for the most part, it is agreed that God expects His leaders to have a certain level of morality and moral leadership. Ultimately, God’s standard is the greatest standard. Any idea outside of Scripture attributed to the pastor should be discussed and agreed upon between pastor and church leadership. Any unspoken or assumed expectations can be harmful for both parties.

The warped view of high expectations (whether from congregations, from within, or both) can be seen in one of two examples, although there are surely more.

If congregations or leadership have expectations that are too high, unspoken, or unrealistic for the pastor, he can become frustrated in his duties. Despite his normal duties of teaching and preaching, he can become overwhelmed with a myriad of other tasks. He can become party to this as well if he takes on tasks without asking for help or communicating clearly to his people. Pastors who believe they can or should do everything will experience a large amount of frustration, leading to potential burnout.

Sometimes, churches are unaware they are adding to these high expectations. Many people mean well or are unsure of how to approach the pastor but can say things that come across as hurtful to the pastor: “Our old pastor didn’t do it like that,” “You only work one day a week, surely you can do more,” “Why haven’t you visited more people?” “There sure haven’t been many people here lately.” People often mean well or aren’t thinking when they make statements like this, but need to be aware of the weight their words carry. Most pastors spend all week concentrating on the church and the duties he performs and takes his job very seriously.

Now, for the curveball. I’ve mostly been talking about how pastors get burned out when expectations are too high, but there is another issue at stake. The other problem that can occur is when the pastor perceives high expectations on the other end of the spectrum. The high expectations become adoration as he fulfills them and accolades begin to pour in every Sunday. If his set of expectations are not from God and he fails to be humble, danger can lie ahead.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve had the opportunity to interview several fallen pastors who allowed this to happen. The church appreciated the fact that the pastor was fulfilling the high expectations through long hours and hard work (sometimes at the expense of time at home) and was praising him each week. The pastor begins to compare the high accolades from the people at church to his marriage relationship, which is an unfair comparison. Often, the pastor would say to his wife, “How come you can’t appreciate me like the people at church do?” Much more about this in a later post.

High expectations happen to everyone, but understanding their source is of great importance. Pastoral/Church communication about correct expectations can prevent church disappointment, pastoral burnout and can also promote proper church health and focus on Christ’s community and everyone’s role within it.

My Pastor Sinned, What Do I Do?

What should a church member do when a pastor’s sin is uncovered? The pastor’s sin could be anything ranging from adultery to embezzling. I’ve put together a few quick questions someone should ask in reference to a pastor’s sin and their own struggle with the issues.

1. How will I and my family react long term and short term? When a pastor falls or sins and is dismissed, the church member and each family typically goes through a difficult time that is similar to the grief cycle one encounters after losing a loved one. Each family and church member needs to prepare for this struggle and look for support in Christ, their church family and possibly counseling.

2. How will our church as a whole react? How will our church leadership react? The church as a whole will often follow the reaction of the leadership. Leadership needs input from the congregation, so encourage them to handle the situation in a Scriptural manner. Also, share with them the need to ask for help from other churches or church leaders if they feel they are not able to make a clear decision.

3. How will we as a church react directly to the pastor? In other words, if his sin warrants that he resign, he is still to be treated as a brother in Christ. Some follow up questions might be, “How will our reaction to him impact our church now and years later? Is how we are treating him on a personal level Scriptural? Will it impact future decisions we make?”

4. Regardless of what the church leadership decides, what will I choose to do in relationship to the pastor? Or, how will I choose to treat the fallen pastor?

5. Pray for him. After I fell, I heard through the grapevine that one of my former deacons had trouble praying for me. He said it took him a long time before he was able to think positively enough of me to say a prayer for me. That is absolutely understandable. Do your best. On top of everything, think of this: “One day, I may very well fall. How would I want people to care for me?”

XXXChurch.com, 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 – XXXChurch.com. 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.

Divisiveness: Acts 2 & Ugly Carpet

I’m the next link in a “chain of blogs” on the issue of divisiveness. Boy, do I know divisiveness. I created it.

Two years ago, I caused a church to hurt because as the pastor, I committed adultery. I created great harm and pain to many people, including my ex-wife, several deacons, an array of church members, family members, pastor friends, and many in the community. Heck, read my last blog post and you’ll find that the pain hasn’t been resolved for some.

I was reading Alan Knox’s blog post on divisiveness and what people really wanted to read about. People want to know how to deal practically with divisive issues. That sells. When you go to your local bookstore, you want results. You have a problem, you want instant results. You want it solved. Now. You bought the dang book, so you want solutions. I hear you, blogosphere.

I was reflecting on my fall from ministry this evening after reading what some former church members had written recently about me on Facebook. It wasn’t kind. They don’t even know I have access to it. I had a friend tell me recently that I really just need to suck it up because it was my sin that causes them to feel that way. He’s right. I caused their divisiveness, their anger.

But I also got to thinking about those specific people who have been lashing out at me since I fell. A lot of them never really liked me. Seriously. The ones who still harbor anger and hatred – they harbored anger and hatred while I was pastoring eight years ago. Funny thing is, I would love them, console them in times of need, go out of my way to pray for them, help them, “grease the sqeaky wheel” and it never really helped. They never would like me.

I can hear you saying, “well, you’re an adulterous, fallen pastor.” Yeah. But I know several ministers who did great at their churches who went down the same road. They spent a lot of time with the complainers and they never got anywhere.

Now, let’s think about the people who were “good.” I hate that word. None of us are really “good” but that’s a theological discussion that would cause divisiveness. Anyway, you know what I mean. There were people there who were kind to me, loving, supportive. After I fell, they were disappointed, upset and the like. It took a little time, but after a while, they showed me a little bit of grace. Guess what? They were still the same. My sin didn’t change them. They were still the same people.

What’s my point? As Arthur Sido said, yes, we must have love as the foundation for everything. As Jeremy Myers said, we are often the problem. As Jon Hutton said, we do need unity. As Andy Witt has clearly stated, our division has come from separation from God. Finally, as Bobby Auner has mathematically stated, Christians have been given the Great Commission to overcome divisiveness to multiply.

These men are all correct. However, we’re all dealing with the human element. Every person in our churches is an individual who, due to the fall, presumes the world revolves around them. Don’t agree? Try to change  the carpet color in your church. I’m not even trying to argue Calvinism vs. Arminianism here. Just change the carpet color. You know the routine. You’ll have a battle to rival Gettysburg. Why? Because we’re human. Because our stupid, human passions get the best of us. Because carpet color for some reason is more important than the Great Commission.

We have got to break through that. How? By walking in the Spirit. It starts with our leaders. And it’s hard when leaders like me fall. It’s hard when statistics tell us that 80% of our pastors are burned out. When 1,500 pastors a month leave the ministry due to moral failure, burnout, or conflict with church leadership.

I long for a day when we can return to the church of Acts 2: And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

Why not now? Because we, I, all of us are broken people. We are in desperate need of selfless love for Christ’s church. We’re discussing divisiveness because we are divided. Across borders, lines, squabbles and things that don’t matter. The early church had one focus. And it was not within. It was without.

Practical advice? Patience with one another’s faults. Love each other like you would want to be loved. That should sound very familiar. Whether it’s over carpet color or musical differences. If we can’t accept other Christians, we’re in serious trouble.

It’s like this. I’ve sinned horribly in my adultery, but God has forgiven me. Other Christians haven’t. But I tell myself, they may not forgive me now, but they’re gonna have to live with me in eternity, so they’d better get used to it sometime.

Friends, it’s the same way here. I see fellow Christians tear each other up online over the silliest things in the angriest manner possible. There’s just no reason for it. We do it out of pride. We have two options. We can keep on with our anger or begin to adapt an Acts 2 attitude. It begins in our own church – ugly carpet and all.

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Chain blog rules:

1) If you would like to write the next blog post (link) in this chain, leave a comment stating that you would like to do so. If someone else has already requested to write the next link, then please wait for that blog post and leave a comment there requesting to write the following link.

2) Feel free to leave comments here and discuss items in this blog post without taking part in the actual “chain”. Your comments and discussion are very important in this chain blog.

3) When you write a link in this chain, please reply in the comments of the previous post to let everyone know that your link is ready. Also, please try to keep an updated list of links in the chain at the bottom of your post, and please include these rules at the bottom of your post.

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“Links” in this chain blog:

1. “Chain Blog: Dealing with Divisive Issues Introduction” by Alan
2. “Chain Blog: Dealing with divisive issues starts with love” by Arthur
3. “I am divisive” by Jeremy
4. “Chain Blog: Please agree with me” by Jon
5. “Division and our shared humanity” by Andy
6. “Chain Blog: solving the problem” by Bobby
7. “Divisiveness: Acts 2 & Ugly Carpet” by Ray
8. Who will write the next “link” post in the chain?

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.

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