"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, February 2, 2011

Reconciling With A Fallen Pastor, Part 3: Why Early Contact Is Essential

Last time, I listed some theoretical stages that some pastors go through when they fall. After experiencing a fall myself, and after talking to many other fallen pastors, it seems that the most vital and fragile time in the fallen pastor’s development is in the first two to three weeks.

It is during this time that he is embarrassed and moving towards feelings of how to cope with his sin. It seems to be that during this time that people either abandon him or reach out to him. It is also during this time that he begins to either question his faith or reaffirm it.

He will be considering ideas like,

“All my pastor friends were there for me when things were going well, but none of them will speak to me now."

"I pastored that church for years and forgave them when they failed, but now they hate me and can’t even speak to me."

"All they want to do is gossip. There is more to this story than meets the eye, but no one wants to listen to my side.”

His statements will most likely become increasingly cynical and angry.

The fallen pastor will probably reach out to close friends in the ministry, but few of them know how to react or what to say. The fallen pastor will often find strong allegiances with unbelievers or the unchurched who will show much more compassion than those within the church. They won’t judge the fallen pastor and show more mercy and understanding than most Christians.

That was my experience. I found more love from friends who were Christians who had become disenfranchised with church long ago and from non-Christians. They made statements like, “Arthur, you messed up, but I don’t judge you. I make mistakes too. You’re human. I’m here for you.”

Many fallen pastors seem to swing to an extreme and find solace in alcohol or drugs to numb the pain they feel.

I’m not trying to blame the church that the pastor has sinned against. But there has to be a way to work these things out better than this. Most of the fallen pastors I have spoken to have said the same thing – “Don’t expect your church to ever forgive you. It’s been years, and my church still won’t speak to me.”

When a pastor falls, it hurts. It is disappointing. The marks of transgression can remain for ages. But does it have to be that way? I don’t know. I do know that the only hope of reconciliation is through Christ. I am hopeful that there are people out there who are Googling “how to reconcile with a fallen pastor.”

From what I have seen, the vast majority of churches would rather forget about the fallen pastor and kick him to the curb. Or, they would rather “forgive him in their heart” and move on, hopefully to never make eye contact with him.

The fallen pastor, for the most part, moves away and makes himself scarce. He lives in shame and tries to find another trade. Some do the opposite. They justify their sin and never find humility.

What does Scripture say? Galatians 6:1-5 (ESV) 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. Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load.

It is my strong opinion that the fallen pastor needs to be contacted in love in the first two weeks by a strong, loving church member or by a pastor friend on the church’s behalf with Galatians 6:1-5 in mind.

If it hadn’t been for Brad, my current pastor contacting me in those first few weeks, I don’t know where I would be now. Because of even his small amount of friendship and guidance, I kept it together. He provided a small amount of light in a world that had suddenly gone dark because of my sin.

Was I ready to be reconciled with my former church in the spirit of Galatians 6 at that time? No. That process was not even close. But some contact was absolutely necessary for me to keep my Christian sanity.

I don’t believe that Angel Falls Baptist will ever desire to reconcile with me. Sure, I’ve had some sort of reconciliation with the head deacon. I had lunch with the new pastor. But the hurt that is there will stay there. That’s okay. It’s not mine to judge them. Some churches just aren’t able to move on.

I want to reconcile with them someday. I want to be able to walk in there and embrace them again. To humble myself before them. To tell them how sorry I am for letting them down, face to face. But they’re not there yet, I suppose, from what I hear. They may never be.

But friends, if your church has been through this and wants to be a healthy, Christ-like church, you must remove the spirit of unforgiveness from your midst. It may be that your previous pastor will not hear you. He may not listen. It may be that there is bad blood between you and he. That’s okay.

Christ has called us, however, to be different. He has called us to reconcile and forgive and move past our differences.

I shouldn’t have to mention Christ’s commands to forgive one another. Maybe things haven’t been the same since your pastor fell. And yeah, it’s his fault he fell. But it may be the church’s fault if there is bitterness, rancor, and anger there if you haven’t publicly forgiven him and talked to him.

Back to the beginning – how do you approach your pastor if he just fell? What are you supposed to say to this man who just disappointed you greatly?

I’ll give you an insight then tell you what helped me the most.

I think I’ve mentioned this before, but I remember listening to a sermon by famous Southern Baptist pastor Charles Stanley once. He said he was coming out of the bathroom and a church member was staring at him. He said, “Yes?” The church member said, “I just never thought of you having to use the bathroom before.” He was such an amazing, lofty ideal to this church member that this person never thought of him as human. And yet, here he was coming out of the bathroom.

Before you talk to your pastor, remember he’s a human. He sins. He fails. He thinks the same things you do. He has sinned as you sin. He is a weak, miserable failure. If you got to know him, you’d realize that.

However, the vast majority of pastors have no real friends to speak of. We’re not allowed to get close to people in our church because that usually spells trouble (another blog topic for another time).

If you go talk to him, humble yourself, realizing that it could be you in his situation. You could fall one day. Don’t pity him, but be his friend.

I had one or two pastor friends call and say, "I just don't know what to say." They repeated this several times. And that was alright. They were disappointed greatly. At least they reached out.

What should you do if you want to head into the trenches and really love the fallen pastor? Survey the scene, like they taught you in CPR class. He may not be humble when you see him. He may be defensive, he could be suicidal. He could be angry or he may be a drunken wreck. Just be ready to listen. And be ready to love.

Just because you’re going to visit him doesn’t mean you’re “accepting” his sin as okay. All you’re going to do is to do what Christ did for the sinners he saw. Most people wouldn't dare go because to be seen talking to a fallen pastor will make them "guilty by association."

You’re basically saying, “I love you for who you are. I don’t understand any of this, but I love you in spite of what you did. I’m your friend and will help you no matter what.” But guess what? Don’t say it unless you mean it. It's a Christlike thing to say.

The fallen pastor has a long road ahead of him, just like the hurt church. God will deal with his heart if he is willing to change. But at the outset, if you are able, if you are a willing disciple of Christ, and if you can endure tough love, I suggest you visit your very human, fallen pastor. It may be the one thing that God uses to tip the balance between his destruction or his salvation.

And by all means, remember Galatians 6:9, And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.

Note: I assumed through this whole post that the fallen minister was a man. I've encountered several fallen female youth pastors, etc. through my travels. It applies to anyone who has fallen. Pastor's wives, deacon's wives, whatever. Just love them and let them know you care.


  1. What an incredible post. Thank you for your great insight and honesty. God bless you, my friend. Aaron Matthews

  2. Aaron,

    Thank you for stopping by. Wish I could take credit for the insight. It came from tough learning and pain. Hopefully, others may gain from my journey.

    God bless you as well.


  3. Hi, I have been reading your blog. My husband was the worship pastor at a church where the lead pastor (who was also discipling him) fell. It turned out to be the third church he had fallen in. His wife stuck with him everytime and each new congregation unknowingly followed him. He always had a reason for why it didn't work out but was always vague. One he was discovered at our church with his wife's new best friend, he moved on to yet another state and church. My husband and I are now pastoring at another, truly amazing church but there's always this lingering "how does that happen?" in the back of my mind. My husband and I have a good marriage and we openly discuss the "there is no temptation uncommon to man". I ask him regularly how he is doing and if he's tempted, bracing myself if the enemy should perhaps try. But as I was reading your blog I kept thinking a couple of things I was wondering if you could shed some light on. Please don't take this personally: when you wrote "there had been trouble in our marriage for s long time" what does that mean? And did your wife know your marriage was in trouble? And why is it always the wife's best friend? It's baffling to me and it's not always easy to find someone to ask those questions to. My husband sat down with our former pastor, whom he continued to love, and asked him a lot of the hard questions but my questions still remain. They are much less, how could you do that and much more, how does that happen? I read your blog on what a congregant can do to help prevent but what about the wife of a pastor? Thoughts?

  4. Thank you CJ, for your questions. I never take questions personally, especially when they could help others.

    In my first marriage, Angelica did know there were problems. Did she know that our problems were about to lead to adultery? No. That was all me. Our problems were issues that we should have addressed.

    As a wife, you should be able to ask your husband any question you want and get a satisfactory answer. If you're uncomfortable with him being around other women or in a specific situation, he needs to be able to fix that situation so you're comfortable with it. He should be guarding himself anyway so that it doesn't happen again - guarding mind and heart.

    This means spending valuable time with you in prayer and Bible study. Having accountability partners in the ministry. And being fully healed before entering the ministry again (but that's a whole other topic).

    I'm not sure I understand your question "why is it always the wife's best friend?" Has that happened to you?

    Thanks again for your post.


  5. About the question "why is it always the wife's best friend?" We have seen countless pastors fall into sin as I'm sure you now have. I know it's not always the case that the pastor runs off with his wife's best friend, but the last 6 out of 10 that has been the case. When my husband and I had been married for only a month he found himself tempted (attracted) to my best friend at the time. He was saved from that temptation by immediately turning to our new pastors and confessing his thoughts. How do pastors find themselves close enough to other women to find themselves "in love"?

  6. Good question. Lots of reasons I suppose. Sin, obviously is the glaring answer. Unresolved problems in the current marriage is the other answer.

    Why the best friend? Probably because there is familiarity there and some sort of relationship that exists. Also, the two tend to be close in age.

    In my case, I wasn't really looking for Cynthia and she wasn't seeking me out either. We hadn't done any relationship building either. She was sympathetic toward me after a tragedy in my life and she was dealing with serious issues as well. That doesn't excuse it by any means but maybe that gives you insight.

    Since being married, we have done all we can to make our marriage strong. Have there been tough times due to my fall from the pastorate and the way we came together? Absolutely. But that's why we have to be ever vigilant.

    When I first started writing this blog, I had a lot of people make comments like, "she's going to do to you what you did to her" or "your marriage won't last because it isn't blessed by God."

    But God has been God has been gracious to us.


  7. CJ,

    I love where this inquiry is going concerning the "why is it always the best friend" question. I think this opens many doors for further discussion on that particular part of the story. I can't wait to see if some new blog posts develop as a result.

    There are so many factors that contribute to situations like ours. While I will say that our story is VERY unique, I am quite sure there are many common denominators that could help explain why other pastors have fallen.

    Our relationship developed out of desperate need on both sides. We each had our separate life struggles along with the shared grief of the loss of Arthur's mother. She was also my good friend. Had I not been best friends with Angelica I believe this grief would have bonded us anyway.

    My friendship with Angelica contributed in no way to my relationship with Arthur. However, I do have a few theories on how the "best friend" connection may contribute to the fall of others. Maybe I will blog about that soon.

    I have a blog that presents the perspective of the "other woman". That may help you to see things from the other side. I'm not trying to advertise. Mine is definitely not as insightful as Arthur's. But it might make for an interesting read if you have the time.

    I think it is wonderful that you are trying to understand. Most people would rather hide from it or run away from it altogether. What you are doing takes courage. In you I see the heart of a good Christian who seeks understanding.

    Many prayers for you as you continue on your journey.

    Cynthia (Wife of Arthur Dimmesdale)

  8. Hey sweetie,

    Have I told you lately how much I love you?


  9. Arthur,

    Your initial objective for establishing this blog was to vent some of your emotion and to help you process some very difficult things in your mind.

    It became a therapeutic tool for you and I praise God for that! There were many people who asked questions and commented on your posts that eventually led to a change in both our perspectives on a lot of things. I am thankful for that as well.

    This whole ordeal has been a healing process for us both. But you have persevered through it all thanks to forgiveness and the grace of God!

    Now you have evolved into a spirit of ministry where you are in the hopes that others can be helped or maybe even healed by having access to your insight. I have no doubt that your blog has helped to facilitate many reconciliations. The glory for this we give completely to God.

    I am very proud of you. I am proud of the man that you are. The man that God meant for you to be. Thank you for following the direction in which He leads your heart. I know there are days when that is not an easy thing to do.

    I love you and I support you! And remember... I am still your biggest fan.