"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, March 1, 2011

Why Churches Aren't Growing: Transparency And The Fallen Church

So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. (Matthew 5:23-24 ESV)

I write a lot about reconciliation and forgiveness. There are several reasons for this.

First, I was horrible at it before I fell. I was an awful example to my family, my friends, and my congregation. I now know what it's like to be the one who desperately wants to be reconciled with people I have harmed.

Secondly, one of my reasons for blogging is that I want to see churches and fallen pastors reconcile. Some churches actually handle the process the right way. They approach the pastor when they discover his indiscretion, they help he and his family get help as they depart and stay in contact with him.

However, this is a rarity. Most churches harbor bitterness, anger, and never get over the event. I do not believe this is the will of Christ. As the verse above states (and many others), those who have been sinned against should be the initiators of reconciliation and forgiveness. As I have stated before, this does not mean letting the minister back to a place of authority necessarily, but it does mean love and forgiveness.

There are a lot of verses about forgiveness. Some put the onus on the one who sinned. But the verse above and others put the responsibility on the one who was sinned against. 

In the Southern Baptist Convention, there are literally hundreds of churches that have been hurt by fallen pastors. These churches have not made amends or reconciled with these pastors.

Do not hear me placing full blame on these churches. If you've read my previous posts on the matter, you will know that is not how I feel. These men fell and sinned. Sometimes, they get pompous after their fall and immediately try to return to ministry. They become recalcitrant and egotistical. I understand that.

However, there is a responsibility for churches to reconcile with fallen pastors.
The majority of our Southern Baptist churches are not growing. There are many reasons for this. Could I suggest that one of the many reasons for it is that we have a lot of junk in our souls that needs to be cleansed?

I know of one local church whose pastor left forty years ago on bad terms. He didn't even sin morally. It was just a bad situation where he got into an argument with a deacon and his family who "ran the church." Ever since that time, the church has replaced the pastor every three years like clockwork. The family who was "in charge" is still there running the show.

When you ask an outsider what is going on at that church they always point back at the event that happened forty years ago. That's a shame.

That makes me concerned about churches all across the nation. It makes me concerned about the church where I fell, and it is my fault. It makes me concerned about the churches where other pastors fell who haven't taken the time to heal or reconcile with the pastor.

Two things are happening in churches like that. First, a dynamic of distrust can set in where congregations will always have a weary eye of the pastor. And secondly, if the people never forgive, there is the constant sin of unforgiveness in the midst that will hinder worship, growth, and spiritual awareness.

I had a funny thought about evangelism as well. Would churches effected by a fall be less likely to evangelize? Would they be less likely to invite people in knowing that they might have potential sins to deal with?

Since I fell, I've been called a lot of things. Since I consider this a "family friendly" blog, I won't mention the not so nice ones.

However, the one thing I've been called most often on this blog is "transparent." I consider that a compliment, even though I'm hiding behind a pseudonym.

In our Southern Baptist churches, we do a superb job of putting on a "happy face" each Sunday. We sit up straight, sing when we're cued to, and shake hands.  

If you have kids though, you know that the ride to church is completely different. "Don't hit your sister! Be quiet back there! You'd better stop complaining about going to church! Don't act up during the sermon this week!"

And each Sunday during Sunday School a topic will come up and we'll shake our heads at the sinful topic brought up. Lust? "We shouldn't do that, but you know everyone struggles once in a while." Greed? "That's a terrible thing, we should store up our treasures in heaven." Anger? "Well, righteous anger is fine, but Jesus said love your neighbor."

What if we were transparent during Sunday School? Lust? "Yes, I fight it daily, friends. Each day I struggle. Will you please pray for me?" Greed? "I've run three credit cards past their limit and it's out of control." Anger? "Me and my wife are having problems. I need help from someone. Can anyone here help me?"

What about during the week? What if we acted at church like we did at work? What if the pastor walked in on us at our most sinful moment? What if people saw us worried about our finances, fighting with our spouses, angry with our co-workers, cussing at the mechanic who messed up our car, kicking the cat, etc.?

If we acted at church like we did during the week - now that would be transparent. To have people see us as we really are - broken, sinful, wrecked, miserable, depressed. Because under those Baptist smiles are broken, sinful people who really need help.

When I was a pastor and would go to my bi-vocational job, people would cuss in front of me without knowing I was a pastor. When they found out, they'd say, "I'm sorry, I didn't know you were a preacher."

I'd say, "Why are you sorry to me? You didn't do anything to me. Be yourself."

Why don't we act around our church friends like we do around our weekday friends? Because we're hypocrites. We're not transparent.

But guess what? God sees right through us. And yet, He loves us still. He shows us grace and mercy.

But, if one of us sees a church member sin or a church leader fall, we judge them harshly. And quickly. And we gossip. No grace. No mercy. Only judgment.

Know why we're in decline? Because most of us (and I'm including myself in this) don't look a thing like Christ and His grace when it comes to dealing with one another, much less non-Christians.

We haven't forgiven those who have sinned against us. We harbor anger, bitterness and rage when long ago we should have reached out and shown mercy as Christ has shown to us.

But strangely enough, each of us will pile into our cars on Sunday, looking our best, put on our Baptist smiles and push down our troubles.

It doesn't have to be that way. If we were all transparent, if we left our Baptist smiles at the door, shared our hurts with one another, reconciled our pasts, then looked out into our community and realized that we're just like everyone else, we might just be fueled for evangelism.

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.
(Matthew 6:1 ESV)


  1. Great article. I too wish that there would be reconciliation, forgiveness and love among all of us that have 'fallen'. God has forgiven me - why can't you? - has been my theme song. It's complicated, I've been told. People can't forget what you've done. My writings are on this subject much of the time too - as I have felt the attack from well meaning leaders who did not give me a chance and wanted to slap me into counseling first - ask questions later. Shame on them. Two years later I have a completely different perspective on the situation without emotion and I can tell you without hesitation - THEY WERE WRONG. And yet - I do not harbor any ill feelings - I have simply walked away knowing I cannot change anyone's mind about me or what they thought. My heart is right and it is between God and me. I come from an Assembly of God background and so does my husband and believe me - the Southern Baptist's don't have a corner on stupidity or narrow mindedness and I can say that without malice - it's just a fact. By the way - my husband went to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth - graduated in '93 - did you attend there?

  2. By the way - I couldn't convert you over to wordpress.com, could I? It's really hard to leave comments on your site - really easy on mine :)

  3. Fallen Pastor, I just read your blog from the beginning. And I must say, wow!
    You still call yourself a Christian? After what you have done? Well if you do, good for you! Because men do not determine if you are forgiven or not, God does. You are no longer an adulterer, because you are a new creature in Jesus. You have been forgiven 2000 years ago. Why still be torturing yourself? It sounds like you really want to convince others that you are forgiven, and I can understand that you probably want to regain other people’s trust. But if they don’t, who cares? You, your wife, and God matters. Nobody else. Maybe you haven’t forgiven yourself? I am sorry if my words sound harsh, but I am sick and tired of being afraid of what people think. I am a reflective Christian, meaning that I have my doubts about God, but I embrace my doubts because they help me to seek God more. If people think that I will burn in hell for not believing in the traditional way, oh well! I know what I believe, and that I have a lot to learn. But I will not claim to know God fully when I don’t. Transparency is also one of my favorite subjects. I too left the church, three times. And the one I am attending now I am not sure if I will remain any longer. I have learned to be disillusioned with church. And the funny thing is that I have learned to get closer to God without church. I believe that feeding the hungry, visiting orphans, and serving the homeless is going to church and worshipping God. We must be transparent and admit our faults and weaknesses to each other, instead of being hypocrites and pretenders. We are all pretenders, and Jesus hates pretenders. Anyways, please feel free to visit my blog at www.whoischrist.wordpress.com. You can also visit my other blog www.letusbefrank.wordpress.com. God Bless you and your wife! Noel.

  4. Cindy,

    Is Southwestern an accredited seminary? :-)

    No, I went somewhere else, and if your husband appreciates my jab at his seminary, he'll probably figure out where.

    You're right, though, Christians are unforgiving, regardless of what denominational steeple hangs over their head. But I can't judge - I used to be the same way.

    It's my passion to love those people and show them Christ's compassion for the fallen now.

    Wordpress? I might if I could figure out how to transfer all this junk over there.

    The thing that frustrates me about Blogspot is the "word verification." It'll say, "please enter the following word for verification - xiyhowpl."

    Listen, I may be from the South, but even I know that's not a word.


  5. Noel,

    Your first two sentences had me worried there for a second. But I loved what you said, friend.

    I am currently working on a blog post I think you'll like about the church and hypocrisy.

    It's tough being a member of the church, especially when we see so much wrong with it. I think what's wrong with it are people. And I'm one of them.

    I loved your content on both sites. Keep up the good work, friend. God bless you richly and thank you for stopping by.


  6. Man Noel - I was worried too!! Good stinking grief, my friend - but no - you are right on as are all your articles - and a breath of fresh air too - I'm proud to call you my friend :)

    Arthur - I'm sure Greg will get a kick out of your 'slight' to good old SWBTS - he's not a baptist so it really doesn't matter to him - and we really aren't Assemblies anymore because we attend a Church Of God church plant - even while he still holds credentials with the AG - it's complicated. Thank you for agreeing with me about Blogspot and their stupid verification words - what the heck? Anyway - wordpress.com can be your new friend and like my friend Valerie - she copied and pasted and she's so glad that she saw the light (that I helped her see) and is loving life on the other side. Walk towards the light, Arthur....

  7. Noooo! Don't leave me here! Lolol As usual, I love reading what you have to say and I've loved the comments on this one, too. Thank you for all the encouraging words you've given in these trying times- things are beginning to look up! And thank you for creating this site. I can't begin to tell you what it means to be able to read the journey of one just a bit ahead of me in mine, especially when your posts tend to be right in track with what's going on in my heart/mind. This may sound ridiculous, but I really wish that you could marry Ray and I...

  8. Arthur,

    As always, Sweetie, I am very proud of you! I love you with all I am. X's & O's.

  9. Arthur, sorry for scaring you (I like to do that sometimes). I also want you to convert to Wordpress. Join us ! :-D