"But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander." ~ 1 Peter 3:15-16

Review: Fallen Pastors (by Ray Carroll)

“Approximately 1,500 pastors leave their assignments each month due to moral failure, spiritual burnout, or contention within their local congregations.” - Fallen Pastors

Ray Carroll was a former Southern Baptist pastor who fell from grace by committing adultery. He subsequently authored the book “Fallen Pastors: Finding Restoration in a Broken World” based on his experience and is extending help to other fallen pastors and hurt churches. Ray currently works as a sports medicine professional. He is now married to Allison and have two daughters and one step-daughter. Ray blogs at Fallen Pastor while Allison blogs at Fallen Pastor’s Wife.

I can’t remember where I chanced upon the book title, but when I first saw the title I told myself that I had to get the book and read it. So, I did exactly that and devoured the unclean book within three days before the first day of the week starts. I am disappointed glad that even though there were 12 real life case studies documented (including Ray’s), there is absolutely nothing inside which is sexually obscene by my conservative standard. The life stories, in various contextual challenges of their own, were factually bearing witness as standalone chapter each and are proven to be sobering and powerful monuments for lessons to be learnt and reminded of when we are facing the same temptation. After all, we are all depraved beings capable of committing the same evil as Hitler did, not to mention moral failures.

Some illuminating statistics from various researches and surveys, extracted from the book, are listed below:

Work Challenge
- 80% of pastors and 84% of their spouses are discouraged and dealing with depression
- 71% stated they were burned out and battle depression beyond fatigue on a weekly and even a daily basis
- 70% say they have a lower self-esteem now compared to when they started in ministry
- 57% said they would leave if they had a better place to go (including secular work)
- 40% of pastors and 47% of their spouses report they are suffering from burnout, frantic schedules and unrealistic expectations

Marital Challenge
- 81% of pastors report insufficient time with their spouse
- 80% believed pastoral ministry affected their families negatively
- 77% said they felt they did not have a good marriage
- 64% report communication difficulties 
- 46% report sexual problems 
- 37% confessed to having been involved in inappropriate sexual behaviours with someone in the church
- 30% said they had either been in an on-going affair or one-time sexual encounter with a parishioner

People Challenge
- 70% do not have someone they consider a close friend
- 40% reported serious conflict with a parishioner at least once a month

In the book, Ray highlighted some common patterns or red flags of becoming fallen pastors. I believe the main ones are (1) Isolation, (2) High Expectations, (3) Poor Relationship with Spouse, and (4) Original Mistress. In my opinion, (1) and (2) are tied to work nature of the pastoral office as generally pastors have little real friends and face high expectations, which are often catalyst to (3) and subsequently leads to (4) and for some, ultimately consummate in adulterous relationships. Ray described it perfectly in the book, and I have extracted a summarized portion below for your sampling.

“Many pastors enter into a harmful culture where they are esteemed for their talent and eventually idolized. The pastor is given high expectation and over exerts himself to meet those expectations. In doing so, he strives to meet the needs of the church over all else in his life to please her. The church becomes his first mistress. Over time, as he pushes himself to find acceptance and appreciation from the church, he finds that his spouse does not give him the same amount of accolades for him at home. Their communication breaks down as he may view her as moving in a different spiritual direction. He spends more time fulfilling the needs of his ministry than his family, or that may be the perception. This is the trap that many ministers fall into as they chase after their first mistress, the church. As the church eventually runs out of praise for him, he may become burned out, angry or fall into sexual temptation.”

I would recommend for every believer to read the book, including those aspiring to be pastors, newly appointed pastors, and senior pastors alike. If you think that it is not possible for you to fall, remember that pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall (Prov: 16:18). While not every pastors or ministers will fall from grace as did Ray, which later shine on him again, the statistics themselves are mind-staggering. I hope the hard cold statistics will move more people to rethink about the current church system and the pastoral office which is generally perceived as biblical.

If you have ever looked at some of the elaborated advertisements for hiring pastors, including the detailed scope of being an aspiring visionary, firey preacher, persuasive evangelist, wonders worker, wise counselor, to visiting the sick, marrying the alive, burying the dead, comforting the sad, counselling the weak, encouraging the depressed, reconciling conflicts, confronting the strong-headed, perseverance to do all the mentioned, being able to sing and play musical instrument as preferred etc, and not mentioning being expected to be theologically sound (according to denominational party lines), have strong prayer life, solid faith and absolutely no doubts at all, and also expected to be immunized against any forms of temptations and above reproach etc, you will immediately gain enlightenment that political leaders and CEOs of great companies would not fit the bills of these advertisements. Even though the Scripture talks about different spiritual gifts for different people (1 Cor 12) such as the five-fold ministries (Eph 4:11), it seems that these advertisements are trying to squeeze every worth out of the monies down to the last cent by asking for people who are 5-in-1 and the more the merrier. If that is a picture of an ideal, it is an ideal intended only for the church as a whole who alone will exhibit the full range of spiritual gifts on a sustainable basis, as the Body of Christ. The advertisements aim to recruit Jesus, but pastors are mere redeemed sinners with imperfect personalities.

Perhaps we are doing a great disservice to our brothers and sisters who sacrifice themselves into the current ministerial positions which are not meant to be what we think they are. And to the brothers and sisters who enter into formal ministries (secular or not) with less than honourable intentions, God is able to change our hearts and we can always start anew. May the heavenly Father lead us not into temptation but Christ, and deliver us from the evil through the power of the Spirit. Amen.