"What can a ruined soul, like mine, effect towards the redemption of other souls?—or a polluted soul, towards their purification?"

This blog has been moved to www.fallenpastor.com.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Common Traits Of The Fallen Pastor, Part 1: Poor Father Relationship

Before I get to my epilogue (of sorts), I want to do this short series on common traits of the fallen pastor.

Since I started blogging, I've talked to and emailed a decent number of pastors who, like me, fell because of moral issues. I've read other online articles about how to avoid moral sin in the pastorate and warning signs, etc. However, most of these articles were written by men who hadn't fallen or didn't know a fallen pastor. That's not to say there wasn't any truth to those articles, but I hope I can offer a little more insight.

Just a preamble to this series - I'm listing things that seem to be common traits. Of course, that doesn't mean they exist in all fallen pastors. But they did seem to be a common thread in discussions. This isn't a scientific study, by any stretch of the imagination.

Also, none of these traits are an excuse for sin. If I've mentioned that once on this blog, I've said it a thousand times. There is no license for sin. Are there factors that lead us there? Yes. And it can be helpful to notice certain things that could lead to a fall.

I'd like to discuss the common trait of a poor relationship with the fallen pastor's father. Fathers have a huge influence on pastors.

I remember the first day of seminary orientation, they asked us a few questions about our background. One of the questions they asked was, "How many of you have fathers who were pastors?" Most of the hands in the room went up. The questioner said, "75% of pastors have a father who was also a pastor. I didn't raise my hand that day.

I had always had a rocky relationship with my dad. I think it's because we were too much alike. He had a great relationship with my sister. They stayed up late at night going over the Bible and studying together. He and I rarely had much to say to each other.

He took us to church, was a deacon once, and kept to himself a lot. He worked hard, traveled a lot, and gave us a nice place to live. But we never really bonded during my life.

I smarted off a lot to him. I wasn't a bad kid, just had a smart mouth. When I was 15, I suppose I had smarted off to him for the last time. He looked at my mother and said, "I'm done with him, you raise him. He's yours." He was serious. He shut me out after that.

My sister achieved academically better than I did and I always felt (whether it was right or not, I'll never know, but it's how I felt) that Dad always preferred my sister over me. I suppose if I had to deal with me and my smart mouth, I would have preferred my sister too.

After I went away to college, my relationship with my father got a little better. We would talk on the phone and I'd ask for life advice. When I made the decision to go to seminary, he got critical of me again. I'll never understand that. It may not have been about seminary. Maybe he was dealing with his own life issues. He had dealt with a lifetime of anxiety himself.

I remember once, he came to visit Angelica and me at seminary. I jogged out to meet him and Mom at their car and the first thing he said to me was, "You're getting a little fat, aren't you?" This was coming from a man who was 150 pounds overweight himself. I rue that I rarely got praise from him. I never heard him tell me he was proud of me.

I had a counselor tell me once that he was subconsciously competing with me. Or whatever. I can see part of that being true. Whatever the problem was, it only got worse.

Even when I got ordained, or when he came to hear me preach, he'd unload on me. Not many kind words, but a lot of underhanded criticism.

He had a fall of his own. He and my mother divorced and I was angry. He basically kicked her out of the house. I judged him. Harshly. Something, I've learned, is wrong. I shut him out of my life completely for a period of about two years.

At the end of that two years, I started becoming convicted about it. I started talking to him a little, started trying to forge some sort of relationship. But it was too late. He died in an accident. I stood there, over his hospital bed while he was on life support realizing that I had done something horrible, but I didn't quite know what it was right then.

Later, I realized what it was. I had failed to love him for who he was instead of looking past what he had done.

Other fallen pastors seem to have a similar problem with their fathers. I don't know how much it adds to our sin later in life, but it has a significant impact upon who we are as adults.

There's a lot to be learned here, I think. First, if you're a father, make it work with your children. Lay aside any petty disagreements and humble yourself before them. Show them your vulnerability and just love them. Let them know you're proud of them regardless of what they've done. Just love them for who they are. Heck yes, parenting is hard. But it's worth it.

Secondly, if you have a parent who has caused you pain and still alive, don't let time expire before you do whatever you can to fix it. There are many of you who have parents who have done horrible things to you. I'm sorry. It may never be the same again with them. We can, however, still have a relationship with them where we draw boundaries and still have a salvageable relationship with them. We've only got this life. Tell them how you feel. Write them a letter and share your pain constructively. It's hard, I know. But don't let the later pain of regret and the "what ifs" get hold of you.

Thirdly, learn to love people as Christ did. He looked past what people did and loved them for who they were. Never shut the door completely on someone. Sometimes, you might be the only person in this world that someone will listen to. If you shut that door on them, it's dangerous.

Relationships with parents can be a great joy or a great pain. Those relationships form the people we are today whether we freely admit it or not. We cannot escape our generational past. But we can learn from it.


  1. Parents have the biggest impact in their kids life. A child in the early years is really dependable on his/her parents. Parents have a huge roll to form that little child and some are making a good job, some are messing up an entire life.

    I'll write about this later because I grew up too in abusive family where my dad abused us. It took God close to 15 years to help me forgive and be free and love my dad again, but I agree parents have huge impact in a person's life. The impact can be either positive or negative.

    You can't blame your life choices on your abusive parents as we all have to make our own choices, but yes our past does impact our future, but it doesn't have to control our future.

  2. Good words, once again. Thank you for sharing. I'm sorry you suffered like you did.

    What our parents did doesn't cause us to act poorly, you are right, but it does have an impact on our character.

    God bless,

  3. I am not sure I would say that the relationship one has with ones father has any bearing on one falling into an affair. Some moral deviancy perhaps, but not a one time consensual affair. Generally that is a direct result from the kind of intimacy issues that you referenced.

  4. Thanks for the comment, anonymous.

    Again, I'm not saying that it leads to an affair. But it is an interesting trait that fallen pastors seem to have in common.

    I'm definitely not blaming it for my adultery, don't hear me saying that, by any means. But it is an interesting relationship issue that should be studied by someone much smarter than me.

    It's noted here in this blog post as one of many warning signs for those out there who might be traveling down a similar path. Bad father relationships are a warning for anyone, not just pastors. It's a warning for all of us - children and fathers alike.

    Thanks for the comment.