"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.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Reflection: When The Good Is Forgotten

I want to take a quick break and write about something that has been on my mind since the day of my fall. It's not an easy thing to write about.

It's a consequence of my sin and a painful one that only pastors know. I've talked to other fallen pastors about it and they understand it.

I spent almost a decade at Angel Falls Baptist Church shepherding the people there. I was called there, I believe, by God. I was called to ministry - which was a powerful experience for me. I have no doubt whatsoever that I was where I was supposed to be.

I spent years there doing what a pastor should do - loving, praying, preaching and shepherding. But with one horrible sin, all of it was quickly forgotten. A consequence of my sin.

I know that not all of the church members probably feel that way. I get that. But sin is a terrible thing. It quickly wipes away so much of the good that has been built up.

Pastors do a lot that people see. The most obvious are the sermons we preach every Sunday.

I remember a friend saying once, "You sure get paid a lot for only working one hour a week." Funny.

I had a seminary professor tell our preaching class once that for every minute we were in the pulpit, we should spend an hour in preparation. Well . . . I didn't go that far. But I worked hard on my sermons. I put time, thought, and prayer into each one. They weren't perfect, by any means, but most of them were out of love for God's people.

I'd have the occasional sermon that was out of anger for the way I thought the people were acting. Pastors, you'll know what I'm talking about. Those sermons almost always backfire. For the most part, I did good expositional sermons. The word "good" is used loosely.

Of course, my heart was hurt once when the music director accused me of stealing my sermons off the internet. That hurt. A lot. But I ignored it and moved on.

But pastors have a way of taking that stuff very personally. Because everything we do for the church is personal. We spend all week thinking about and praying for the church. We obsess about the church on a personal level. And we take the simplest comment and obsess about it for a long time.

At my small, rural church, I was in charge of just about everything. I ran VBS, the outreach program, half of the committees, and so forth. That was the stuff that was expected of me. I didn't mind too much. I wished that the people had gotten more involved. But I guess it was part of leadership. I pushed myself way too hard at times. Part of it was that I have always been an overachiever. I'll push myself until I'm exhausted.

I'll never forget any of the kids I got to baptize. I'm so glad I got to baptize both of my kids while I was there. Two memories that will be etched in my memory for the rest of my life. I'll always remember the others who came that wanted to talk about salvation, those who I witnessed to, those whom I baptized.

The kids who were ready for salvation - those were the ones I'll always remember. I always cried. I was always so careful with them. I never wanted a "false conversion". I wanted it to be apparent that it was the work of God and no one else for them.

Then there were the moments that no one else ever saw or ever heard of. The moments where I found myself asking, "Do pastors of megachurches have to go through this?"

Once, on New Year's Eve, I was sitting in the living room. Angelica was in bed watching the New Year's Eve countdown or something and someone pounded on the door. It was five minutes until midnight for crying out loud. I went to the door and it was a woman who had been to the church twice. She only came during VBS commencement. She was standing there shivering with her little five year old.

I brought them inside. Angelica wouldn't come near the door, she stood in the living room and listened. The woman told me that she had a fight with her boyfriend and he was drunk and had gotten abusive. They ran from him and had to wade through a pond in the dark. They were soaked and freezing. I got them a blanket. They wanted a ride to a nearby town.

I told Angelica to call the police while I gave them a ride. I turned the heat up in the van all the way and talked to her and prayed with her the entire way as I dropped her off at her mom's house. Her little girl wept for the first five minutes but I was able to calm her down.

Another time, about three weeks before Angelica found out about my sin, I got a call from the wife of a church member. He was distraught. He had wandered off into the woods and was going to hang himself.

I said, "What? Have you called the police?"

She said rather calmly, "I guess."

I said, "You guess? Get on the phone right now and call them if you haven't!"

I hung up and drove over to get Phillip Townsend. Fast. We went over to see if we could find the man. He and his wife had two years of serious marital issues. She was very unforgiving of his past. He had done some minor things about twenty years ago, but she wouldn't let it go. She hounded and hounded him about his sin that he had committed two decades ago and he had snapped.

Phillip and I talked to his wife before going into the woods. The police hadn't arrived. She said he might have a gun and that he was very upset. Great. We dashed off into the woods to find him. We finally did and he was very upset. Long story short, we talked him out of killing himself.

God gets all the credit for both of those stories.

The world is full of hurting, broken people whose lives are a breath away from disaster.

But now, I'm not in a position to minister to those people anymore. My sin disqualified me from taking care of that flock. And within me, as a former pastor, it hurts. It hurts that maybe, just maybe, there are those who will only remember that one sin instead of any glory that belongs only to God.

Don't read this thinking I'm trying to get anyone to feel sorry for me. I'm not. Read this as a warning - all sin has dire consequence. It never leaves us unmarked. It leaves heavy scars upon the soul.

Christ heals those scars - all of them. But as humans, we remember them all.

If you're engaged in any sin - gossip, pornography, self-righteousness, lying, deceitfulness, theft, anger, unforgiveness - they will all have their price upon your soul. No sin is free.


  1. Unfortunately, that is the case. Much or most good will be forgotten because of this as Solomon observed in the following verses:

    Ecclesiastes 10:1 Dead flies putrefy the perfumer's ointment, And cause it to give off a foul odor; So does a little folly to one respected for wisdom and honor.

    Ecclesiastes 9:18 Wisdom is better than weapons of war: but one sinner destroyeth much good.

    This is a reality I am dealing with in a counseling issue with a husband who asks me: "I know I blew it, but won't she remember all the good that I did for her?"

    Probably not.

    However, the good news is, God doesn't treat us this way even though man does. We can go to him for acceptance and forgiveness and just rest in his.

  2. Or, a great line from a 3 Doors Down song, "You took for granted all the times I never let you down."

    It is a harsh reality. But it's part of the process of pain that we create. Hopefully one day, those I've hurt can recover some of the good.

    I had a bad falling out with my own father and because of it, it was hard for me to remember anything but the poor relationship we had at the end of his life. But as time has gone on, I've remembered much of the good from earlier.

    The human brain (and the emotional process) is a funny thing. Forgiveness (or our lack thereof) is even stranger.

    But you are absolutely right. Thank God for His grace. His love and forgiveness are perfect, unlike ours.

    Thank you for your comment.


  3. In life you remember the best and the worst memories and in between them some. Often a bad move can override many good memories...why? because the pain caused just stinks for a long time. When we hurt someone even after long years we leave a scar behind and the scar reminds them about the pain. Good memories don't leave behind themselves scars.

    Try to build new good memories with your daughters so they will have the good to remember too.

    Regarding others not remembering the good times...don't forget it's more fun to talk about someone about their mistakes, failures that puts them up as they are not as bad as you.

    You just have to keep yourself straight eye to eye with God and rebuild your personal relationship with him.

    I have a question: Did you had a close intimate relationship with God before you choosed to sin? I often find that Pastors, church leaders being so busy "doing" God's work often distant away from a close personal realtionship with God and that is causing them to fail.

  4. WIP,

    Thank you for that advice, it will be taken to heart and it is greatly appreciated. I am investing so much time into my girls and am reaping the rewards of it.

    Your honest question deserves an honest answer. It'll be a bit long (and probably deserving of its own blog post, which I'll do later) but here we go . . .

    You're right on. I'd say ever since seminary, I was not in tune spiritually as I should have been with God. That's not to say I didn't have a close walk at times - I did. However, too often, I replaced my relationship with Him with a head knowledge - a theological relationship.

    More to the point - instead of loving God, I treated Him as a thing to be studied. I learned that in seminary. Don't hear me say that seminary is a bad place. It's not. I recommend it highly - for the right reasons and with the right mentoring plan in place.

    But at the time, my life was in shambles. My mom had just died, my father had died the year before, Angelica's close friend had fallen, and the circumstances were terrible. Instead of being a time where a pastor should turn to God, I sank into anxiety and depression. I was in horrible grief and anguish.

    I moved away from Him and was asking a lot of questions.

    Like I've said a hundred times in my blog, don't hear me blame my circumstances for my fall. But those are the reasons I moved out of a close relationship with God.

    Hope that answers your question.