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“Waiting On Forgiveness” vs. Restoration | Provoketive Magazine
24 Jan 2012

The Author

I am author of the book, "Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World" from Civitas Press. I also contributed an essay to “The Practice of Love: Real Stories of Living Into the Kingdom of God,” under my pseudonym Arthur Dimmesdale. By trade, I am a certified athletic trainer.

I am keenly interested in the theme of redemption and seeing it play out in the Christian community. I'm also intrigued how tragedy affects Christians and how we view it in relationship with the cross. My theology is somewhere between Asahel Nettleton and Bruce Ware.

I'm originally from Arkansas but currently reside in Western Kentucky. I am a husband to my beautiful wife Allison, and a father to three.


“Waiting On Forgiveness” vs. Restoration

I’ve had a chance to read a lot of articles on Provoketive about people who have had awful experiences in church life. These experiences put such a bad taste in their mouth, they ended up leaving for good. Typically, these experiences with church stemmed from one major problem – bad leadership.

I have to admit. Before my fall from ministry, I did some things I regret. I was very heavy-handed at times, I had a tendency towards legalism and I was very, very unforgiving. That being said, I don’t want to sound like a tyrant. Most people, I believe, remember me as a pretty decent guy. But the one thing I regret is my lack of forgiveness. It pains me to think about any I might have sent away with a bad taste in their mouth. They ended up rejecting church because of a man and never knowing the love of Christ.

My own peak of unforgiveness came with my relationship with my father. He and I were at odds for most of my life. He was very critical of me and had trouble expressing any love for me. While I was pastoring, he left my mother for another woman and I took that opportunity to judge him, condemn him and speak harshly to him. In return, he yelled right back.

I decided to shut the door on him completely. I hated him for how he had treated my mother. People would say, “Ray, you can’t do that. He’s your father.” I’d say, “I don’t care. If he wants forgiveness, I guess I’ll listen. But he has to come to me first. And he has to mean it.”

I was still in ministry when he died in an accident a year and a half after he left my mother. We had never reconciled. I had spent my days spewing venom at him. Toward the end, I tried to sit down with him and tried to have a civil conversation with him, but we would never have a father-son relationship.

A year later, my mother died in an accident and I found myself without parents, alone. Another year later, I committed adultery and needed my mom and dad more than ever. I began to rue the days when I cursed my father for his mistakes. I began to see him as human and understand that like him, I was imperfect. Woefully imperfect. I was, in fact, my father’s son.

And I began to understand the wide gap between the “forgiveness” of man and the restoration of God and how He wants us to practice it.

I began contemplating passages Like Matthew 18:12 where a shepherd has 100 sheep. One of them went astray. What did the shepherd do? Did he say, “Oh, it’s alright. I’ve got 99 other ones.” Nope. The shepherd left the ones that he knew were fine and he sought out the one. He didn’t wait for it to come back, he sought it out.

I started thinking about 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.”

Paul tells the church that if anyone sins, that we ought to go get them and restore them. We shouldn’t wait for anyone to be thrown on the trash heap of society. We grab them, help them, shake them to their senses if we have to. But we walk with them and see that they are restored to the community of faith. We don’t stand idly by and hope that they come waltzing back one day and ask for our forgiveness. It’s our job to restore people.

Contrast that with my reaction towards my father. I was so angry, I wanted to ignore him. Forever. I wanted his heart to change. I wanted it to change the way I wanted it to change. I wanted him to act and conform to my standards. Sure, he was sinning. But I wanted nothing to do with his restoration. It was easier for me to sit and hate.

But that’s not what the community of faith is called to do. We are called to seek people out and restore them. That’s what Jesus does for us. He seeks us out. And as His representatives, He wants us to seek out those who need restoration. Is it easy? Nope. Does it require our time and compassion? Yes.

Ultimately, it is worth it. What Christ did to save us was worth it and He calls us to be sacrificial in our lives toward others as well.


Ray Carroll is author of Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World which is available at Amazon.com and is also available for the Amazon Kindle.


  1. Ray I don’t know your story, other than what you’ve shared here, but it’s clear to me that it’s changing you, in a restorative way.

    I’m not so sure I agree with the bad leadership (sometimes maybe), I think it’s more often bad followership. Too often we go to church and judge the experience relative to our expectations.

    • So do you think our expectations for good fellowship are too high? Just wondering.

      • Laura, I think that is a great question. Is our problem that our expectations for what fellowship is, too high, or should we hold those high expectations?

        • Great question by both of you. I think the real question is, “do we really have authentic fellowship?” When we have authentic Christlike fellowship, I think it’s a natural reaction to chase after those who fall. When we are just disjointed people in church, we tend to not care when people fall off the radar.

    • Wayne, thank you for that. And as far as leadership or followership, I think it’s a combination. The followers will often respond to how the leadership reacts. If a church member falls and the leadership distances themselves, people follow. Then again, we are all responsible for how we treat our fallen brothers and sisters regardless of how leadership responds.

  2. Great post, Ray. I appreciate your vulnerability in talking about your past.

    • Laura, thank you. It hasn’t always been easy. When I did it in the beginning, I did it by blogging under a pseudonym. But I’ve found that people are helped. But I’ll tell you who I really admire. Joy Wilson. She’s one of my heroes. Her story is transformative and amazing and she has amazing grit.

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