Should There Be a Difference in How We Handle a Fallen Pastor vs. a Church Member

12. Church Going Through a Pastor’s Fall

Recently the question was asked as to whether not there was a greater responsibility placed upon a fallen pastor or fulltime worker than on another church member. The answer is emphatically yes. The Bible clearly reveals that there is more responsibility upon that one in a position of spiritual authority, than on those in the pews. The question we have to ask however, is how do we treat that person? I believe that every situation is unique. There are some cases where a pastor could be restored in the church, where he had fallen from his position of leadership. Unfortunately, this is almost always impossible because the people have held that leader in such high esteem, that it is difficult for them not to continue to look to him as their leader or to have bitterness towards him because of their disappointment and hurt.

One reason it is often difficult for pastors to be restored within their own church is because they developed a climate of intolerance. Many pastors become the victim of their own intolerant attitudes towards people who fail. What is really sad is that so many churches have such a self righteous environment that when the pastor falls, it is difficult for them to be restored. I am not speaking here of restoring them to their position of pastor but rather merely restoring them to usefulness.

When I first resigned Miller Road Baptist Church my now exwife and I planned to remain in the church. I believe, that one of the reasons my marriage failed is because of the incredible pressure and attacks that took place while we remained in the church. We were devastated by those people who had been devastated by us. Our failures created hurt that made it difficult for people to have a restorative attitude towards us. Eventually, it put a strain on our marriage that we could not overcome. We needed to leave and find another church that would accept us, but it was too late.

This is where it gets tricky. Most pastors do not understand the importance of reaching out to other fallen preachers and taking them in quickly with a plan of restoration. Look, the best person to help restore a pastor is another pastor. Tragically, too many pastors don’t want to get their hands dirty. Preachers are devastated when they fall and the responsibility for someone to take them under their wing is no small task. Yet it ought to be a task that preachers are willing to take. My dad was one who never backed down from an opportunity to help a fallen preacher. He was even criticized for it. There is a pastor in California who to this day is critical and bitter at my dad because my dad helped his fallen father get back in the ministry, when the son did not think he should. It was my dad’s standard practice to help fallen preachers and his desired goal was always to get them back to a place of usefulness. He did not always believe they should become pastors again, but he always made that his first goal if it was at all possible.

Churches must be restoration minded in order for people to be restored. We can’t send them off to boot camps or hide them somewhere until we think it’s time to bring them back into the public eye. First Baptist Church of Hammond is filled with dozens and I think I could say hundreds of people who were brought there by my dad after a fall. There are even people in this group that my dad helped give a new opportunity. Most of the members of First Baptist Church had no idea what happened, or why they came. If they did, they didn’t think twice about it because they knew my dad’s heart. There ought to be churches all across America where fallen preachers can come and get a fresh start.

Yes, there is a difference because it is a visible fall and therefore it is a visible restoration. However it is unfortunate that many times we make it almost impossible for preachers to be restored, because we keep raising the bar and because we are so afraid of what people are going to say on the Internet. I believe that if my dad were alive today, even in this Internet slander climate, he would do what he always did in trying to restore preachers who fell. He did not consider first what was best for him and his reputation. He always considered what he could do to help that person. He did not have attorneys issuing statements as to what a person did or didn’t do. He handled it privately and carefully. We have a bunch of scaredycat preachers today who are more concerned with what the “do right” groups are going to say than with what Lord is going to say when we face him. God help us to become restorers again no matter how challenging it is.