23 Jan 2013

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.

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Fallen Pastors Can Be Restored: A Personal Tale, Part 1
restores

It was just four months after I had committed adultery and fallen from my pastorate. I was showing signs of “true repentance,” some thought. I was reaching out for help. What I was really doing was trying not to lose my mind. I didn’t have a friend in the world. Almost everyone had abandoned me, I was living in a tiny house miles away from my children and I hated myself.

But part of me wanted to justify my actions. I wanted to defend myself. I wanted someone just to listen to me. I deserved to be listened to. I had listened to people in church whine and complain for eight years. I had been challenged to a fist fight, heard complaints about the most insignificant things, performed funerals, stood over the dying, done their weddings, held the hands of the sick, and preached the Word. Was a little understanding too much to ask?

Of course, at that time, I was hardened in my sin. I hadn’t been humbled yet. I was still lashing out at other people instead of asking God for help. So I started making phone calls. I was asking questions like, “Why are people still angry with me?” “Why can’t people show the love of Christ toward me?” “Why can’t true Christians show forgiveness?”

These were selfish questions to ask, I later found out. At the time, I felt fully justified in asking them. I had already moved past my sin and I felt alright with God. So why couldn’t everyone else be okay with me?

The one answer I got from people that really chapped my butt was this – “Well, Ray, God isn’t done with you. He may not want you to pastor again, but he probably has use for you in the ministry somewhere.

When I heard that the first time, I almost threw up. I was a seminary graduate. Don’t talk to me like that. Don’t give me some petty answer. I have a Master of Divinity for crying out loud. But I heard that answer again and again. “God may have some ministry for you down the road, Ray. Don’t give up.” “Jerks,” I thought.

Little did I know, God hadn’t even begun working on my callous heart. I was in a stage of pride that I hadn’t even begun to understand.

I remember a few months after I got caught, I started blogging anonymously. Then, I got involved with Civitas Press in writing an essay for “The Practice of Love.” Thanks to editor Jonathan Brink and the work of God in my heart, I finally started scraping away at the problems going on in my soul.

While I was blogging anonymously under the name of Arthur Dimmesdale, I started getting requests for help from other fallen pastors. I thought, “Who am I to help these people? I’m barely out of the woods myself.” But all I knew to do was bare my heart and soul to them, love them for who they were and give them honest answers.

While I wrote the essay for that book, God showed me something amazing. He still loved me. Christ was by my side. Regardless of the sin I had wrought, I was still His child. There was nothing I could do to make Him hate me. The real problem was this – I hated myself more than anyone at my former church, anyone in my family or anyone in the community hated me. I hated myself for the sin I had committed.

I loathed myself of a daily basis. I didn’t think I deserved the love of God, the love of Christ or the love of my new wife. I didn’t think I ever deserved to show my face in public again. For months, I would go to department stores, grocery stores or in public with my head down, hoping not to make eye contact with anyone. I was unworthy.

Finally, I had a breakthrough with John 8. It was a passage I refused to preach when I was a pastor. It was the woman caught in adultery. In that passage, God showed me that Christ stands behind us when we are at our worst. He is our best friend, even when the odds are stacked against us. That is exactly what He did at Calvary.

While I was writing an essay on that for “The Practice of Love,” Jonathan Brink suggested to me that I was now the woman caught in adultery. I was the horrible sinner thrust down into the dirt and facing a crowd of people who demanded justice.

He was right. But the person who wanted me to be strung up from the highest tree at that moment was me. My upbringing, my seminary education, my judgmental attitude had brought me to one conclusion – I should be stoned for my sin. That’s why I could never preach that passage. I would read it and say, “That woman does, by the Law of Moses, deserve death.” But at the moment I reread it after I committed adultery, I now stood in her place.

I looked at her and saw me. I said, “That’s me. I deserve death. But the only friend I have in the world is Christ and what does He say?” Christ looked at the crowd and challenged all of them. He said, “You without sin, cast the first stone.” He was telling them to examine their own hearts. They had no right to pass ultimate judgment on this woman. He was the only one who had that right.

Then He said to her, “Is anyone left to condemn you? Go and sin no more.”

That gave me a whole new lease on life. Working with Jonathan and Civitas, I wrote a book and used my real name. From that day, I began to get more and more contact with fallen pastors across the country who felt like they had no voice.

But more about that next time. And hope for fallen pastors who feel like they cannot be restored . . . because they can.

____________________________

Ray Carroll is author of “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World.” He blogs at www.fallenpastor.com.

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