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.

Finding Meaning At The End Of Life

I’ve always believed that no matter how long or how short your life is, as long as you are drawing a breath, God will use it for His glory.

I saw it the other day in a dear friend. Those of you who know me well know who I’m referring to. An old friend who has been overcome with cancer. Those of you who have read my book or blog might know him as the church leader I first shared my infidelity with. He’s much more than that. He’s a father figure to me. He was one of the first church members to offer me unconditional forgiveness.

I remember the day I approached him, in his pole barn. It was a year after my adultery. I laid it all out on the line. I had even been mad at him for how things had gone after I got caught. But there I sat, humbled. He said finally, “Yes, I was disappointed. All I could think of was all of the good you could have done. But I forgave you a while back. I’m glad you’re here.” A few months ago, before we even knew he had cancer, I saw him and he wrapped his hard-working agrarian arms around me and said to me unexpectedly, “You know I’ve always loved you, don’t you?”

I grew up with a rocky relationship with my own father. When I met this man, he mentored me as a young pastor. He lead me in the right direction, give me a kind kick in the pants when I needed it, encourage me on the days when I must have looked frustrated, and he looked after my family. I remember the day my mother was killed in a car accident. The nurse came into the room where he, I, and another deacon were waiting. She asked, “Who is going to identify the body?” She was looking at me. I began to descend into a panic attack. He stood up without hesitation and said, “Can it be anyone?” She said, “Yes.” He said, “I’ll do it.” I wept. When he came back, he was crying.

When I heard about his cancer a few months ago, I went and saw him. It hadn’t slowed him down too much yet. But we found we had more to talk about. He said, “I wish I had a little more time. There are a few more things I’d like to do.”

I about lost it. I started coughing uncontrollably. I said, “Really?” (For this next part, you really have to have been sitting where we were.) I said, “Look around these eighty acres you own. You bought them from hard work at coal mining and bull dozing. Not only you live here, but you have made it so three other families can live on your property, including my ex-wife and your own daughter. You built a covered, wooden bridge. Really? I built a wooden bookshelf once. And it fell apart. You have done more in your life than most men could accomplish in two lifetimes. What’s more is that you love people from your heart. You are an amazing man that gives and gives and sets an example. I wouldn’t be sitting here if that wasn’t true.

He’s the heart of that little rural church. He was there the day the doors were first opened as a kid and he’s still the heart of it now. His heart beats for that place. If I could give you an example – there was an awful ice storm about four years ago here. The power was out all across the county. Except for two places – the parsonage and the church. We were the only church that had services that Sunday after the ice storm, dagnabit. But we were there. All eight of us. He led songs, I preached like I had a cathedral full of people whose hearts needed to be warmed. And it was enough.

He led the choir. And he did more than lead a choir – he led it with his heart. He had sang in a quartet for years and just loved to praise God and that’s pretty much what he did while leading that choir. Sometimes, when the music got to him, a tear would come to his eye. And that was the best kind of worship.

He loves his wife and daughter and granddaughter. They are the world to him. He would fight fiercely to defend them, work his tail off to provide for all of them, and yet a tear comes to his eye when he talks about any of them.

He loves people. If a man showed up at church, regardless of his story, who needed $20, he’d fish it out of his wallet and pray with him. He just loved people. He loved people like Christ told us to love people. And he didn’t do it because it was being dragged out of him or because it was legalistic. He did it because it was the nature of his heart.

Most of all, he loves his Savior. I told a lot of stories about him in this blog post to get to this point. Finding meaning at the end of life. He’s in extremely bad shape and I told him what I tell everyone at the end of life – “God has a purpose for each breath and every heartbeat.” Then I said to him, “Is there anyone you haven’t talked to that you want me to contact?” He whispered, “no.” He’s unable to talk, eat or drink. His esophagus is completely destroyed.

I guess he had a little time to think about my question, though. I showed up a day later and asked his wife, “How are the visitors? Anything new?” She said, “He had me call two people up here who haven’t been here. He witnessed to both of them even though he can hardly talk. He gave one of them his bible. Both of them left crying.

I got choked up. Every moment we have in this life is worth something. Every breath we draw, even in suffering, is worth the glory of God. My friend won’t be around much longer, but I know he loves his Savior enough to make the best of it. He looked at me about a week ago. He’s not able to swallow the ice water that is given him. It can’t make it’s way to his stomach. He has to suction it back out.

He looked at me and said, “I’d give a million dollars to drink a glass of water. But soon I’ll have my fill of the living water.” Yes you will. Yes, you absolutely will. I said to him, “I don’t envy you right now, but soon, I will heartily envy you and your position right next to Christ.” He smiled and we shared a tear together.

Thank you, Lord, for a friend like that. A man like that who showed me forgiveness, kindness and the model of what a father should be. May we all remember and learn, especially if we end up in the same circumstances one day.

Getting Saved And Calling The Police

Last time I blogged about a passage I found in one of my mom’s old books, Temptation: How Christians Can Deal With It.

Allison was reading it and began laughing out loud. She found some of my mom’s humor. Mom was a card. She could make anyone laugh. It’s where I get my sick, twisted, and somewhat Southern refined sense of humor.

In this book, she tells people how to get saved. How to reach out to Christ and ask Him into their hearts. (Allison found this little nugget.) Then she tells them what to do once they’ve made that huge, life changing decision, because a second cannot be delayed:

“Great! Now things are going to get better, maybe not all at once, but a little at a time. The next thing you have to do is tell someone what you’ve done. If you know some Christian people, call them and tell them you have made a decision and accepted Christ into your life. Don’t wait! Do it now! If you don’t know any people who are Christians, get the telephone book. Turn to the Yellow Pages and locate a church telephone number. Call it. If it is after hours, look for a minister’s home telephone number and call it.

If nothing else, call the local police station and tell them you need to talk to a minister or chaplain. Satan will tell you to wait until tomorrow, but don’t do it. Your decision is important to you and to God.”

Mom, that is impassioned and awesome. I love you.

Thank You Mom, And Fellow Author

For the past week, I’ve been struggling as I write my book with questions every first time author must ask.

“Am I doing a good job? Am I writing enough? Will anyone care?”

My mom, Frances Carroll, wrote several Christian books to help people. I’ve thought of her along the way many times since she died in an accident several years ago.

I called my sister a few days ago and asked her, “Did Mom ever talk about her frustration with writing? About deadlines or writing enough?” Mary Ann said, “I think when she wrote ‘Temptation’ she had some blood pressure problems.”

I suffer from the same horrible depression Mom suffered from, but like to pretend I don’t. My beautiful wife Allison has been here with me and I have been pouring my heart out to her as I write about broken ministers who have fallen and are looking for redemption. The entire time, I’ve been faced with nasty anonymous emails, terrible blog comments,and various other people who question my reasons for what I do.

For the last two days, I’ve been productive, but my heart has been weary. I knew writing was hard, but I didn’t know how soul breaking it was.

Tonight, on a whim, (a providential one) I went to the garage and got a copy of Mom’s book, Temptation: How Christians Can Deal With It. Allison and I read through it turn by turn for a bit. Then I got to page 106 and broke down and wept. It was published way back in 1984 and was the Moody Publisher’s Book of the Month. I was only 11 at the time, but I swear, the next few paragraphs were written for my brittle soul in 2011, July 4.

Here’s what my beautiful mother, a brilliant author who I can’t hold a candle to said:

“I’m just an average housewife and a child of God. I want to tell you what [Satan] is doing to me just for sharing these words in order to keep me from exposing him by the light of truth through Christ. He wants to render every Christian useless. In the past few weeks, there has been a most ungodly attack upon me and my family. My husband has had problems with his work; the children have been under attack at school; my health has been under constant attack. Satan wants us to think we can do little or nothing as individual Christian witnesses. However, nothing is further from the truth! I am not more gifted or talented than you, but I must share the message of Christ as God has laid it on my heart.

Satan has showered me with a series of physical problems. My blood pressure is sky high. The doctor has given me medication and is carefully watching my pressure. Six months ago I had no physical problems. Why now? What has changed is that Satan desires to cause enough discomfort so that I will turn away from my walk with Christ and give up writing this book. Even though I never desired to be a writer – in fact nothing was further from my mind – God convinced me that I must write. He knows I made a sincere commitment to serve Christ.

God gave me the talent and the gift to share my words in writing. He told me that I must share the Word of God in a manner that would be understandable to every reader. You see, I have no special training or education in the area of writing. But God has given me a gift to share His truth with those who will accept it in the same loving, giving, and honest manner in which He has put it in my heart. God impressed upon me that there are not enough Christians who are willing to give of themselves honestly and openly. In prayer time, He told me I must be genuine and believable to those who will read my words. God wants us to understand that we have not yet reached our fullest potential as Christians. he wants us to understand that there is some special task for us to do in His name. We must be about His work, now! We have delayed too long in seeking God’s will for our lives.

Frankly, Satan doesn’t like this message. He doesn’t want to let it out. He is fighting me with all the fury of hell. In fact it is hell thrown open in an effort to quench the Spirit of truth in the Christian. I feel anguish in my heart as I write. Satan cannot defeat you or me when we are in Christ. He is only bluffing! But God wants you, dear reader, to know this! Satan may cause some harm to my body, but he won’t defeat my spirit. I have many Christian friends who are praying for me as I write this study. The victory is claimed for Christ, and we shall press on.”

Thanks, Mom. I love you.

A lot of people ask what my mom would think of me now. I guess she’d tell me, “press on, my son.”

I’m So Proud Of My Wife

Allison used to have a blog over at Blogspot like I did. She took it down, then realized she missed writing.

She’s started it back up again here at WordPress and I’m so proud of her. I love it when she writes. She’d say she’s not very good at it. I’d say that anytime your heart can connect freely with a keyboard, go for it. Especially hers.

When I watch her write, she has this furrowing of her brow like shes really, really serious. And she is. She has a point to get across. And she doesn’t want to be bothered. And I don’t. Usually.

Now, she’s going to get mad at me for saying this, but when I’m writing, it’s fine to bother me. I’m the master of multi-tasking. “Can you take out the garbage? Did you see what was on TV? My shoulder hurts. I love you so much. What’s the temperature outside? Don’t you think we need new curtains?”

But that’s why we get along so well. We’re different, yet our hearts are the same. She reminds me so much of my dear mother. Yet, she’s better in a lot of ways. And I don’t mean that as sacrilege. I just mean as a wife can be to her husband instead of as a mother can be to her son.

People ask me occasionally, “What do you think your mother would think of all of this?”

I can honestly say at this moment in my life, “My mom would love me for who I am and love Allison too. She’d want the best for us.”

Yeah. And that’s pretty sweet.

Check out her blog at http://fallenpastorswife.wordpress.com

Mother’s Day: Hope Amidst Tragedy

May 8, when it falls on a Mother’s Day, does not hold much promise for my emotional state.

Seventeen years ago, my college roommate, Scott Cook, was killed in a car accident along with four other students on the way home from a mission trip on Mother’s Day. One by one, they fell asleep just a few miles out from the university. There were just a few days left in the semester.

That day changed a lot of lives, not just my own. He had not returned after our freshman year but had come back for my junior year. He was a changed man. God had called him to ministry and his life was changed. Scott’s life, and death, changed mine. Every year, I remember this day and celebrate his life, but still remember the sorrow that surrounded his death.

Of course, May 8th always falls around Mother’s Day. My mom died in a car accident in 2008 the day before Christmas Eve. Her death and the tragedy of it still resonates soundly in my mind and heart. She had come to live in this community after the divorce between her and my father in 2005 and was a part of my life. She was my best friend. Then suddenly, she was gone.

Mother’s Day weekend is typically not very good for me. And there are a lot of people across the country who feel the same way about it. People who have lost mothers, wives, sisters, or who have had other tragic losses and Mother’s Day is nothing but a grim reminder of what we don’t have anymore.

Sure, we have the promise of being reunited once again with our loved ones after death. We know that they rest with Christ. I get that.

But when I sat in church today, all I could remember were those days when Mom was a member of the church I pastored. Those great Mother’s Days when she was there.

We’d hand out the goofy little pens or books to the moms that probably got lost in couch cushions across the community, but I would always take Mom hers. I felt like a little six year old walking up to her with a flower I had just picked in the backyard. All I wanted to do is let her know I loved her. To tell her “thanks, Mom, for all that you’ve done. I can never repay it, but you’ve saved me over and over. I hope I can make you proud someday.”

When I was in kindergarten, we made these necklaces for Mother’s Day one year. The teacher must have been looking to waste time, because looking back, they were an awful idea. But, man, I thought it was awesome. It was a string of paperclips put together with little pieces of wallpaper taped to each section of paperclip. I picked out some awful looking piece of wallpaper, but at the time, I thought it was cool. I took it home to Mom on Friday and gave it to her proudly.

Sunday came around and she was getting ready for church. I looked on the dresser and my pathetic looking necklace was lying there. Some of the pieces of wallpaper were already losing their tape. She was putting on a gold chain. I looked back and forth between the necklaces. Tears started welling up in my eyes.

“Mommy? Aren’t you going to wear my necklace?” Poor Mom. I swear for a second she thought about rolling her eyes, but she snapped that gold chain off and put my sorry looking wallpaper and paper clip monstrosity around her neck. And she wore it to First Baptist Russellville that Sunday.

Proudly. And I walked next to her proudly. Holding her hand and smiling. Because she was proud of me and what I had done.

We went to go see my sister the weekend before Mom died tragically. Mom’s mother had passed away decades before, but her mind was still filled with grief over her own mother as we celebrated the holiday. I didn’t know it at the time.

On the way back, we stopped at a Chili’s. The bill came and Mom grabbed it. I said, “No, Mom, I’m getting it.”

She said, “I’ve got it, Son. Let Mom take care of it. You’re always going to be my little boy. I’m so proud of you. I love you.”

Two weeks later I thought of that moment and wept like a baby. Even now while I think of that moment, the tears are hard to fight back.

So what can any of us do? Those of us who have sorrow this weekend? My roommate’s death weighs heavy on my heart again this year. Mom’s presence is on my mind. Eventually, her birthday will come, then the holidays, and I’ll be thinking about my father as well, who died in an accident.

Well, the best thing to do is listen to Mom. She loved to blog. That weekend that we went to visit my sister, when she got home, Mom blogged about her pain and missing her Mom. This was read at her funeral and has served me well since her death. She was a wise woman and her words ring true today, now, more than ever:

Saturday was one of those really tough days we have to endure as adults. Despite my personal heartache it was a time to have some laughter and to enjoy seeing my 3 granddaughters playing together. We went to visit Dave, MAC and Maggie for a few hours, to have some celebration of Christmas together and to enjoy fellowship; and although it was a day of deep personal hurt, the passing of my mother some years ago, I got through it pretty well.

Remembering those we love is expected, keeping on living in the moment is a necessity; blending the two is sometimes difficult. However, the sound of happiness and laughter is always welcome; even when the soul is weighed heavy with sorrow.

Love you, Mom.

Descent Into Sin, Part One: Tragedy

I started retelling my story last time with a short prelude into how I ended up in the ministry. Strange how we can summarize our lives into one blog post.

I’ve talked to a lot of fallen pastors and have found that before their fall, they experience crisis or tragedy. The same was true for me. However, even if tragedy or crisis strikes, each fallen pastor I have spoken to is careful to point out that their sin is still their sin. There was no excuse for what they did.

I don’t write about the tragedies that occurred before my fall to garner pity, only to let you know that a fall just doesn’t “happen.” There are a typically a myriad of swirling circumstances around the event that contribute to a fall.

My parents divorced in 2005 and my mother moved to our little community. She was devastated by the divorce and I was angry at my father. He and I had never had a very good relationship. The divorce didn’t help much, either. Mom was an instant hit with my two daughters. They had never had a grandparent so readily accessible. She doted on them and played Barbies with them like there was no tomorrow.

In February of 2007, my father died in an accident when he fell. He was living about an hour away and our relationship had slightly improved, but I still harbored much resentment toward him. I sought counseling after he died to deal with my anger and hatred toward him.

I thought that his death would remove the bitterness I felt in my life, but I was wrong. It was still there, festering.

The next year, we had a crisis in the church. I won’t detail it here, but suffice it to say it was a small situation that got blown out of proportion. It lasted for at least six months. We tried to ignore it, hoping that it would go away, but it didn’t. Feelings were hurt, people left, and it kept me awake at night. It was one of the worst stretches of my pastorate. In fact, I was starting to send out resumes. I was beginning to hate the ministry. All I wanted to do was preach, but the nagging crisis was all I could see before me.

While the crisis was still going on, Christmas 2008 was fast approaching. I was hoping the New Year would bring some peace and resolution.

I traveled with my wife and children to see her family in a neighboring state. Mom stayed behind at home to get ready for Christmas. On the way out of town, we even saw her in her car and waved to her on the way out of town. That was December 22nd.

The next morning, I awoke with a horrible feeling. I wasn’t sure what was wrong, but I knew something was out of sorts. I called Mom. No answer. I called again. Still no answer. That wasn’t like her. She was OCD like me and always had a phone with her. I called and called and called.

I soon found out that she had been in a car accident. She had hit a sheet of ice and slipped off the road and hit a tree.

We left my wife’s family’s house and began to drive back home. On the way, I received a call from a hospital near Nashville. Mom was gone.

I have no way to tell you how I felt. Those of you who have lost loved ones suddenly to tragedy know how it feels. And when you lose them near a holiday, you know how intense it is. And more, you know what it’s like to have to tell your kids. I had to break my kids’ hearts that day.

We finally got back home and I had to go to Nashville and identify her body. Thankfully, one of my deacons did that for me. When we got back to the church, many of the members were there. They had been praying and mourning. It was a beautiful moment for me. Most of them didn’t know what to say to me, but that was okay. I didn’t know what to say either. They loved on me and hugged me. And I loved them right back.

I was in complete despair. Utter grief overtook my soul. My mother was my prayer warrior. She was the only one in my life who listened to my perils, my hurts, and my complaints. No one else did that for me. And now, she was gone.

Back to counseling I went, but I was numb to it.

There was another family tragedy that befell us just a few months later, but I cannot write about it. Let it be said that I was broken by that point. Was I going out looking for comfort? No. Was I searching for sin? No. But I was numb to everything. I had no purpose. No one understood me and I didn’t think anyone was listening either.

The Difficulties Of Writing

I’ve always loved writing. Ever since I wrote an extremely short story in first grade called “George Washington and the Purple Polka Dotted Measles,” I learned that writing was in my blood. My mother wrote a lot and was published. She wasn’t nationally known by any means, but she did it for the enjoyment and to help others.

She encouraged my writing and as long as I can remember I’ve had pen to paper at some point in my life doing some project, whether it be fiction, non-fiction, theological, or just plain silly. We write about what we know, it seems. In seminary, I was forced to write a lot about what I didn’t know, but I think I faked it pretty well.

I love reading Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and Douglas Preston. I have no idea where they come up with their ideas. I’d suggest King’s “On Writing,” strongly, even if you have no ambition to write.

In that book, he discusses his addiction problems early in his career and how he doesn’t even remember writing several books.

It’s hard to write sometimes. Many authors struggle with addiction, depression, anxiety and the like. I don’t always think it’s because they’re suffering from writer’s block, either. I think when we write we are baring our soul for everyone to see. Even if fiction is being written, some part of us is being dredged up and being dealt with by our conscious mind.

I’ve been blogging about my fall since March, I think. And there have been times I just had to take a break from it. Rethinking the whole thing and dealing with the issues around it hurt sometimes. There have been times when I relive moments of pain and hurt that were done to me. But for the most part, I realize how much I hurt others and I just have to stop for a while.

I wrote recently that I’ve been pounding out a book. I’m writing now about the death of my mother. It’s been two years since she died. I thought I’d get through it without much difficulty. I was wrong. Thinking about the moments and the day she died bring back strong memories, smells, sights and things I had tucked away in a dark corner of my mind.

When you write about something like that, it effects your soul, your mood, your mind and how you treat other people. But then again, writing is also very good therapy, I think. If we’re honest when we write, we can show ourselves where we lack and how we can get better. We can help others in their struggles. If we can be truly transparent, others might see themselves in some part of the story and be truly helped.

That’s why Mom wrote and it helped people. She also suffered from deep depression. At the same time, writing helped her depression. Go figure.

Now, back to writing. And the dark confines of my soul. Say a prayer if you get a chance.

Common Traits Of The Fallen Pastor, Part 4: Tough Times

As this is part four in this series, make sure you start with part one, if you haven’t read it already.

I had someone ask me on this blog recently about what my spiritual life was like leading up to my fall. It was terrible, thank you very much. Shallow, disgraceful, and going nowhere. How’s that for honesty? I’m not proud of it at all.

I wasn’t looking to fall. I wasn’t looking to hook up with the first woman who showed interest in me. That wasn’t the case.

Was I weak spiritually? Yeah. But don’t think I was led into temptation by someone either. I knew exactly what I was doing.

But when I talk to other fallen pastors, their lives were similar. Their spiritual lives were weak and they were dealing with some very difficult circumstances as well.

Now, hear me. Once again. Difficult circumstances don’t give anyone a license to sin. They are a part of our story, however. And we need to recognize when we are vulnerable to sin.

I’ve blogged about the circumstances leading to my fall before, but not all at once. Let me see if I can give a bird’s eye view of how they led to the intense breaking point in my life. I’ve never been to a moment like that in my life and hope to never be there again. But there are many people suffering because of circumstances. They need to be reached out to and they need help. It might be your friend, your neighbor, your pastor – but it would help them if we recognized that they need support. They need support before disaster strikes, not after.

You know how it is. When bad things happen, they don’t ever just happen nice and tidy. They don’t happen in ones. They happen in horrible bunches.

The church was arguing about some inane, ridiculous thing. I take that back. It was ridiculous to me. It wasn’t ridiculous to the five people who kept stringing it out for five stinking months. It was about the deacon who wouldn’t give to the cooperative program. The music minister had resigned over the whole ordeal. A few other members had left. The deacons were ignoring the issue. I was still getting phone calls. I had a church member challenge me to a fight over it in the parking lot between Sunday School and church. It was on my mind every second of the day. It was a major church crisis. The deacon finally left the church under duress. It was a terrible, terrible situation. One I will always second guess myself on.

A month later, my mother died in a car accident. My father had died just a year before. It was a horrible moment. We buried her at Angel Falls Baptist. I was the executor of her estate. I had to be strong during the whole time whether I wanted to or not. Some of you know how that is. I was only allowed offered one week off to grieve and was right back to work. Her death, even today effects me.

Two months after, Angelica and I found out about the friend of her family that had molested several children. It was terrible for her. I had been in the middle of my grieving process and now I stopped to help her in her shock.

The world had stopped for us. For me.

And in the midst of this, Angelica and I had been having serious marriage issues for years. We had seen a marriage counselor at least twice. A Christian marriage counselor. One who suggested we get separated.

Don’t ever think that people just go out and decide to sin. Do I blame my circumstances? No. It was all me. But yes, I was under horrible pressure and pain. It was an awful time. I couldn’t think straight. Maybe I should have done like John Piper and taken a sabbatical. But I didn’t. I thought I was strong enough to move on.

Life was throwing curveball after curveball at me and I was whiffing all of them. But week after week I stood in that pulpit and acted like I was the strongest man alive.

But I wasn’t.

Only now do I freely admit that I am weak. That I am fallen and sinful. But I thank God that even though I fell, He can redeem the weakest and most sinful. Not for my glory, but for His.

If you know someone at church who asks for prayer, or a friend who asks for prayer, or someone going through a tough time, don’t just offer to pray for them. Reach out to them. Give them some of your time. Give them the gift of your love. Let them know in a real and meaningful way that you care.

Those moments that you give may save them. And in the process, you’ll learn a lot about yourself and become a better person.

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