Anger And My Fall From Ministry

This book can help you. But hear me out first. There was a stuggle that went before it. I was angry.

At least I was about this time three years ago. I had been caught in adultery. Man, was I angry. At a lot of people. And it was everyone’s fault.

I was angry at the head deacon. I went to him and explained to him what happened. Can you imagine that he was disappointed in me? Unbelievable! That he was disappointed that I would have comitted adultery after eight years of faithful service! What gives him the nerve? To kick me to the side like that?

I was angry. Pastor angry. Like the type of anger parishoners don’t know their pastors get.

More anger to come. From pastors in the area. Lord, help me. I had dozens of pastor friends in the area whom I had gone to seminary with and they had suddenly abandoned me! I had been kicked out of my parsonage and had to move to a rental home in Greenville, Kentucky, covered with cobwebs, and with a ghetto chouch. They didn’t care. Only two pastors and a director of missons reached out. No one cared. I take that back. The only friends I had suddenly were Mormons who were suddenly very friendly. And I was angry. People hated me. Guess whose anger it was? It was all mine. All the sin and anger belonged to me.

In the past two years, my estranged father had died. My mother, who had become my prayer warrior and primary support had been killed in a car accident. What was God doing to me? I had nothing left! The church was in an upheaval! I had nowhere to turn! Life was spinning out of control and I was a mess. And I found the love of my life.

Anger set in. It set in towards those who once had sat next to me in church. They were disappointed in me and my actions. I was alienated from them forever, I felt. I was the fallen pastor. I was an outcast. A sinner.

I began to call fallen pastors across the country. Do you know what they told me? “You’ll never reconcile with your former congregation, so give it up. You’ll never reconcile with your former congregation.” But I didn’t believe them. I was able to in many ways.

Guess what I did? I wrote a letter to them. It wasn’t well written. It was written with pride and I wish I could take it back.

Then, I sought real counsel. I began to blog. Anonymously. Through the name of Arthur Dimmesdale, I told my story online, anonymously. People responded. I told my story and what I had been through. Many people called me out on my sin and I listened. I heard them.

One day, I posted a blog about writing. A publisher came by and asked me if I would be interested in writing. I said I would. I wrote an essay under my pseudonym. Then, I wrote my book. I was overcome with thoughts about my mother who had written eight books on Christian topics. I wasn’t fit to fill her shoes.

I interviewed many fallen pastors, like myself. All of our stories were the same. We were isolated, stressed out, had intimacy issues with our spouses, and had been placed on a pedestal. What if the problems fallen pastors faced were a cultural issue? What if they can be prevented? I felt that there was hope to help others. So with Civitas Press and my editor, Jonathan Brink, I wrote a book.

I was still angry, but at whom? My ex-wife? No. She hadn’t done anything wrong. She and I get along wonderfully now. We agreed that on some level, we were both are fault. What about the church? I could get mad at the church, but pastors today face problems in churches that are worse than what I ever faced. What was I really angry at?

I was angry with myself. My inability to be something I wasn’t. I wasn’t able to meet people’s needs – the needs I thought I should be meeting. I thought I should be super pastor. I thought I was something I wasn’t. I wasn’t perfect and I hated myself for it. And at the end of it, I just wanted out.

When I look at pastors who cry for help, there are different kinds. I talk to many of my pastor friends today who are frustrated with ministry. They say that their families are suffering because of the ministry. Some get into embezzlement, pornography, or depression. Each of those men get help and are rehabilitated back into the ministry. But the pastors who really, really want out commit adultery. Those are the men who want out of the ministry. Out of it for good. I wanted out. And I got out. God help me.

But I will tell you this – three years later – I want to build a ministry for men who have fallen. I’m proud to say that I have a healthy relationship with my ex-wife. I have a great realationship with my current wife. I am able to minister to fallen pastors, their wives, and churches. God is not done with me quite yet.

Friends, what I’m saying is that our anger is a dead end. Our anger eventually finds itself at our own front door. Banging there. Incessantly. We can be as angry as we want with as many people as we want, but in the end, we are only angry at ourselves. Until we deal with the anger that we have within ourselves, we will never move forward. Good news? Christ has forgiven us. He has taken away the guilt for us. He has moved that anger away from us and set us free.

I have not been tossed upon the trash heap of society yet. I still stand here, waiting to be used by God as He sees fit. Angry? Yes. Angry at the sin that infiltrates our churches. Angry at the sin that is waiting at the door of our pastor’s studies. Angry at what pastors know is coming yet they turn a blind eye to it.

I’ve been there. And I have a batallion of men beside me who know the same. Don’t let it happen to you or your pastor. Ministry can weaken a ministry marriage. It can kill it. Be on the lookout for isolation, decreased time with your wife, high expectations, and conflict. Don’t let it weaken you to the point of ministry failure. Don’t become a statistic. Please. Reach out before it is too late.

The ministry is supposed to work to help the church, brighten your marriage and bring light to the world. Make sure it is doing all of those things. If it isn’t, seek help from a mentor, a counselor or a friend. Get help now.

How Did I Get Here? Jonathan Brink, Providence and Who Knows?

It’s 1:30 in the morning.

A few rugged hours from now, I’ll be preaching and signing some books.

It’s really time for me to be honest with my readers. I’m about to put it on the line. I’m about to publish a blog at 2:00 am Central time, when no one is up. No one reads on Sunday morning. Or afternoon. But there’s a few things I have to say. And I’m going to say it anyway.

There’s a song by the Talking Heads that says, “How did I get here?” That’s how I feel right now. As a man who believes in the sovereignty of God, a man who knows from the foundation of the world God had a plan, that He has no plan B, I am absolutely amazed that I am where I am at this moment.

Two years ago, I was struggling. I was blogging anonymously, trying to rid my head of the pain that beset me. It was there that a man named Jonathan Brink found me. Let me be clear – Jonathan Brink is not a guy I would have ever probably talked to 10 years ago. His theology and ideas would have scared me. After I fell, there was something about him that made him different from every other Christian that turned their back on me. You know what it was? He loved me for who I was. He just loved me for the person I was.

Yeah, I’m a Southern Baptist Calvinist who loves God. But guess what? After I’ve fallen, I was surrounded by men like Jonathan who loved me. The people who believed like I did abandoned me for the most part. Jonathan believed in me, saw worth in me and gave me a shot. I’ve shared with him my fears, my weakness. He’s seen the worst of me in my writing. And he cares about me anyway. I know that in this world, there are few men like him. And I’m proud to call him my brother in Christ. My friend.

In the past two years, I found restoration with God. Because of men like Jonathan, like my pastor Jimmy Stewart, I know that I am no longer a fallen pastor. I’m Ray Carroll. A child of God. A restored creation. A man who sees a broken system in the church who can warn others of what is out there.

I get calls frequently of pastors who are out there who know there is something wrong. They aren’t quite sure what it is, but they are feeling the system is beating them down. As a man who was in that system and felt the worst of it, I can console them. I can help them through it.

The church culture today isn’t the best. It isn’t what Christ wants for us, I don’t think. He wants authentic Christian community. Most of us are blind to it. I was. I didn’t get it. I didn’t understand it until I fell.

I’ve had a lot of people read my book. Not just fallen pastors. I’ve had a lot of church people read my book. All of them have said the same thing – “I had no idea what pastors go through. It must be awful. My eyes are now opened to what you went through. Something needs to change.”

Yes, it does.

I have this idea that runs through my feeble little head many nights before I fall asleep. What if Jesus were to walk into our churches on a Sunday morning? What if He were to see what we were doing? Would He be pleased? Or would He hang His head in shame?

I have a strong belief that if Christ came into our communities, He would avoid our churches. He would go straight for those areas that our churches avoid. He would walk into the low income areas, the strip clubs, the minority neighborhoods, the welfare sections and the unchurched areas. He would go where our churches are afraid to go. And he would minister.

He would go to the places where we don’t want to go. Why? Because we don’t want those people in our churches. We want people in church to look like us. To act like us. To conform like us.

We’re really no different than the Pharisees.

About six months before I fell, I had a deacon quit the church and leave. It was before I ever got involved in adultery. When he left, he called me a “Pharisee.” I got really mad about that. Looking back, he was right. I was a Pharisee. I was a hypocrite. I only wanted my way. I only wanted to justify my actions. I wanted the black and white.

Thank you, God. Thank you for men like Jonathan. Men who have the voice to speak to the truth even though many tell them they are wrong. Thank you that there are people who speak loudly, even though they are called heretics. But I now know that there is love in those people. People whose love speaks louder than the judgment of those who are part of the established tradition. Your Word is true. It is right. But it is also proven over and over again through action.

How did I get here? Through the grace and providence of God. Working through others. I fall on my face, thanking Him that I am even worthy of His mercy.

 

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