Thursday, February 16, 2012

Before you have a moral failure...

Lately it seems not a week goes by that I don't hear about a friend in vocational ministry experiencing a moral failure. Yesterday was again one such day and again I found myself angry and bewildered asking, why. 

I ask why even though I already know it's a question without an answer. I guess it's just natural instinct  to ask this. The Lord spoke to me years ago that the question why would never be answered. The reason for this is that sin doesn't make sense. Satan is the author of confusion and therefore things he orchestrates never have a comprehensible reason. We'll never be able to wrap our brains around the sinful decisions that people make.

I do not want to come across as arrogant or above a failure. Pride goes before a fall. It's so important for all of us to stay humble and teachable and realize that none of us are above falling. One friend of mine was close to a famous minister who fell. If I said the name of this person, all of you reading this would recognize it. It was puzzling to them that this person fell because they knew what a strong prayer life they had. In fact, working in ministry together they were often placed in adjacent rooms  and he could hear this minister interceding for hours. They were under the impression that somebody with a strong prayer life would never be in danger of a fall.  Some time after the prominent minister's failure it suddenly dawned on my friend that in all the many hours they had heard this person praying, they never once heard them pray for a prayer for themselves! While ministering to others and asking God for an anointing upon their upcoming services, they forgot that they needed to pray for their own personal issues. Being reminded of this, in my prayer time this morning in the sanctuary I cried out for me, and for Larry.  I asked God to please, please help us!! For we need His divine help to stay true.  

I don't share this in a spirit of being better, nor of knowing it all -- for I am not, and I don't.  I share this as a plea, to all of my friends to think about. It really seems like nobody thinks or talks about all of the ramifications that come with a fall. We hear of people falling but seldom do we hear all the terrible things they go through after they do!

Why don't we talk more about the horrible aftermath to warn others? I believe one of the most powerful things we could do in ministry is put a panel of several ministry couples who have experienced moral failures on a platform and let them explain in detail to others who haven't fallen exactly what to expect if they do!  I seriously think this is needed. If people knew more of the consequences, maybe it would make a difference. That's the purpose of this post today. If sharing this gives one person pause for thought, it's worth it.

Here are some things I've heard from friends who have morally failed, or things I've observed in those who have. Let them be a warning to you. Can you and will you be forgiven by God? Absolutely. And, consequences are a whole different issue.

Here's what you can expect:

Every sphere of your life is touched by a moral failure - there is no stone unturned it seems. "It affects everything..." is something friends often say.

You probably won't have opportunity to publicly explain yourself or to apologize. Somebody else will do it for you through a letter, or a service conducted by an official.

You will not get to say goodbye to all of the people you have loved and served. That privilege is taken away from you, your spouse and your family.  There is no goodbye party. There is no appreciation, no thanks. Even if you have served a church for twenty or thirty years, it's all down the drain over your one mistake!

You will be abruptly terminated and your office cleaned out privately during a time when no one is there. 

The leadership will communicate what they want to say about you or the situation and the control will be entirely out of your hands. You will feel helpless and simply await people's reaction to the news.

You will wonder what people are saying about you and the wondering will practically drive you crazy. You have all the time on your hands imaginable to worry, because you don't have a job or anywhere to go. For once in your life you have nothing to do.

You have all the time in the world now to take all the time off that you never took while you were a pastor. But now you have no money to do anything or go anywhere.

You regret all the time you never took off. You bemoan the days you never spent in self-care in order to avoid your meltdown.

Although you've been terminated and are no longer on a platform, it is still hard to hide. Social media makes moral failure a killer. You imagine that your failure quickly leaked out... and you're right. People all the way across the country and around the world heard about it almost immediately. Missionary friends in Beijing already know.

If your spouse has enough grace and mercy to stay, you will live a new normal.

Restored is a relative word.

Every day life and little things have huge significance now. You will always have to take time to explain in detail to your spouse why it took so long for you to come back back from the grocery store. They will always second guess.

You will be balancing trying to find a new job with trying to save your marriage and keep your kids speaking to you. Every day will be a struggle to keep your head above water emotionally.

God does heal, and even with that your children will bear the scars of your decision.

You have a degree in theology or pastoral ministry. You wonder what in the world you're going to do with it now. 

If you live in a parsonage, you will probably immediately lose your home.

Your ability to pay bills is immediately affected.

Things like having a home, a car, and basic necessities of life may be in question.

You have no health insurance. Cobra is too expensive. You have no idea what you're going to do as your family has to have insurance with some medical problems that exist currently.  

It's very probable that your kids will have to change homes, schools and friends, all because of you. You will be left to explain this to them. 

Your best friends and even your own kids will wonder if they really know you.

Many of your ministry friends won't come around anymore. You'll question whether they were really friends in the first place. You'll go back and forth in your heart, blaming them for not coming around, then blaming yourself that they don't. Is it your fault or theirs? What came first, the chicken or the egg?

Yes, people are talking. It's not your imagination.

Your spouse is in pain beyond what you could ever imagine. They are hurting and embarrassed and have no idea when or if things will feel better. They have cried until they can't cry any more and you know it's all your fault. 

You will be watched closer and suspected more. Others have issues too. But they've never confessed or  been caught. And least yet. This bothers you but you are powerless to do anything about it.

You have learned that when you fuss about your circumstances or what you perceive as unfair, it just makes it seem like you are not repentant for what you did. This leads people to distrust you even more. Unfortunately you are not in a respected position to speak to issues of injustice or much anything else any more.

You want so badly for people to trust you again, to know you by your heart and not just by the last mistake you made.

You wonder if people still remember the good times, or any positive difference you made in their life.

There will be countless casualties with people who looked to you as their leader. Some will be disillusioned and fall away. You will bear responsibility for them, as an overseer is held to greater account. You bear responsibility, even if you make a comeback.

Speaking of comebacks, there are always exceptions but rare is the comeback that's equal to or greater than the level from which a person came. We all cite the example of King David in the bible. David-style comebacks do happen but unfortunately we rarely see this. Most are a shadow of what they were before the fall.


You look at all the messed up, fallen people in the bible who were subsequently greatly used and you  wonder why it doesn't seem to translate to the church and ministry world.  You have a burden to speak to this, but now lack a platform to do so.

Frustration is your  middle name since the fall.

You are thinking about going back to school to be trained to do something else with your life. But you are facing the issue of where to work in the meantime and how to pay the bills.

When you talk to people you meet for the first time and introduce yourself, you wonder if they know, or if they heard. Are they meeting you with any preconceived ideas, or is this a fresh start? You wonder if there is such a thing as a fresh start.

You need deliverance from your own weaknesses but now have to add forgiveness to your list of things to work through, for all those who have hurt you through what is the most painful transition of your life.

You wish somebody, anybody, would have told  you that it was going to be this hard.

You grieve the loss of your former life as you knew it.

You wish you could go back in time but you can't.

You feel so far away from God -- but He hasn't moved. 

There are the "superstars" of ministry, the mavericks and independents that stay in position and in the limelight after failures, at least for a season. But most ministers aren't superstars and if they are connected to any type of accountability structure, all of the above and more typically takes place.

Some mistakes are more costly than others.


Is what you're thinking about doing worth it?
 

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