25 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 2
restores

While I was writing my book about fallen pastors, I ran into a few pastors who had found a way to restore their ministry. I was dumbfounded. They had, amazingly enough, found a way back into the pastorate.

I’m about to share some feelings I’ve never shared before. Thanks to a counselor I’ve been seeing, I don’t think I would have been able to articulate what I felt or am feeling now. Please, fasten your seat belt.

My first thought was jealousy. I thought, “How come those guys get to go back to the pastorate? What makes them so special? I pulled my weight for eight years, had horrible tragedy come on me and then fell. I still have the gifts of a pastor, so why isn’t God putting me back into it?

I honestly didn’t understand it. And in the back of my mind were those people who had said, “Ray, God can still use you in ministry in some way.

Listen, I’d had enough of those people. You remember in Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer when they go to the Land of Misfit Toys? I felt like a misfit toy. Like everyone was saying, “Ray, you’re a broken down piece of crud, but you’re still a pastor. Unfortunately, God will never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever use you like that again. Mission over. Maybe He’ll retire you over to another, less important job somewhere. You know, doing crud work.” That’s what I heard them all saying. It made me so mad. I wanted them to stop saying it.

The pastors who were getting back into the game were astonishing to me. They found a way back in, past the fear and hurt that I couldn’t get past. Why was God letting them back in but not me? Deep down, I knew I was bitter, angry, and hurt. But why should that stop a seminary graduate? I had skills!

Two people have made a significant impact on me. One is a friend I met early on. He is so close to my heart. I wish to meet him face to face before I die. He is a fallen pastor and has suffered greater than I ever will. He has a chapter in my book. I’m not quoting him exactly, but we were talking once about churches. He was talking about visiting churches after you’ve been a pastor and fallen. He said something like, “It’s hard to visit a church because it’s like working as a waiter in a restaurant. You know exactly what goes on in the kitchen.”

He nailed that one. It’s hard to be a bystander pastor in a church when you’re trying to recover from a miserable failure. I’m on my third church membership now. Most of the problems I’ve faced are my own fault. Listen, when you just visit churches, they know who you are. You’re the adulterous pastor. Allison and I have been stared out of places. Then, when you join, and they know you have talent, they expect things from  you. Either that, or they are wary of you. It’s a revolving door of mistrust or expectations that keeps kicking you in the butt.

Honestly, a lot of it is my fault as well. I still have high expectations of myself that I still need to resolve. Fallen pastors need to find a place to worship and they need a helping hand. I have a friend who is part of a ministry to help men like me and I encourage you to check it out.

The other friend is a Presbyterian minister I met by the providence of God recently. I was hoping to get back into the ministry game and I sat down to talk with him. Instead of talking to me about the ministry, he decided to speak to my soul. I cannot tell you enough how thankful I am for this man and how thankful I am for God placing him in my life at this point.

The first day we talked, one of his major points to me was something like this, “You were miserable in the ministry at the end weren’t you? Why would you want to get back into something that was destroying your soul?

I hate it when people are right about me. I wrote all in my book about how when the ministry is abused, it can destroy a person, a marriage, a church and a family. Strangely enough, here I was talking to this man and he saw right through me and I had failed to apply the lessons of my book to myself.

Better yet, he said, “Since you’ve been blogging, you’ve helped countless ministers get back on track. There is your ministry. That is something more powerful than you ever did before.

It was something I had known all along. Since I’ve started blogging, I’ve gotten at least two emails a week from fallen pastors, pastors who are about to commit adultery, wives of fallen pastors, church members hurt by fallen pastors, and children of fallen pastors. I honestly feel overwhelmed most of the time. I don’t have anything to offer them but words of comfort and honesty.

Most of the time all I can say is, “It’s tough. It’s going to get worse before it gets better, but know that Christ loves you and is beside you.” I can tell them what to expect. I can be real with them and honest about what I went through. And each time as soon as I talk to them, I love them like I’ve been friends with them for years.

The only analogy I can think of is this: When I was a pastor, I was like cake batter. Who doesn’t like cake batter? It’s awesome. It tastes good on the mixer and we want to lick it off before it gets thrown into the dishwasher. But what’s better than cake batter? Cake. Oh my. Cake. Cake with white buttercream icing. Sprinkles. Mmmmmmm.

Through my fall, God took me, a pastor of cake batter and I went through the oven fire. It wasn’t easy. It was of my own doing. I had to eventually humble myself, allow Him to break me and follow a different path. What did He make of me? Cake. Something better. Something much better, for His purpose and His glory.

I think back to those people who said, “You can still minister, Ray.” Yeah, they were thinking I would never be fit to be in  a pulpit again. I still get a chance to preach and share my testimony. I know what they meant. But I also know that now, God has restored me to ministry in His fashion, exactly the way He wants me.

Don’t give up on anyone who sins. Regardless of how far we fall, God still uses those He calls: For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. (Romans 11:29 ESV)

____________________________

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

 

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