Across from me, on the sofa, sat someone I considered a close friend, I tried to absorb her words. “Pastor committed adultery.”
At the time, my fragile faith easily shattered. I fully trusted no man, as I uncovered time after time the betrayal in my own memories that I had stuffed inside out of survival. I struggled to process what she told me. A small amount of trust in our pastor had been built over time, but now the crashing and burning of it imminently loomed.
What was my friend’s motivation? Was she lying to smear his reputation? Could the charges be true?
I made the call to hear for myself. A few days later, our pastor welcomed me to come into his office, but I could hear something in his voice. Regret maybe?
A few weeks before he had approached me after church, saying gently that he wanted to be a father figure to me. Did he? Could I trust him, if he had committed such a sin?
As I sat across from his desk, I reluctantly asked the burning question. His head bowed. I saw tears collecting in his eyes. With the pain of grief, he locked eyes with me. “I know how much this may hurt you,” he sighed. “But I have to be honest with. You need to know the truth, because you have lived with so many lies.” His voice broke as he continued. “I have lived with regret for most of the time as a pastor.”
I swallowed hard. I wished I could put my fingers in my ears. Was I really ready to hear this confession? Would it crush my trust further? Why had I even come? Why was I driven to know what was in this man’s closet?
He proceeded to tell me that as a young pastor, he grew arrogant, thinking himself above a fall. He spent too much time alone with his attractive secretary, emotionally attaching to her, while his wife held down the home front. And he fell. Fell hard. It had happened years before, but the blow still felt fresh, in the gut.
He made no excuses for his behavior. Simply with great remorse, he asked me to forgive him. He regretted being one more male figure, especially pastor figure, who had failed me: one more man on the list who now I would question, struggling to trust.
Years later, I totally respect this man. He fell, yes, but he didn’t hide it. He repented. He didn’t blame his failure on someone or something else. He owned it, even though it had happened way before me, but the regret he lived with for the rest of his ministry, the rest of his life, was palpable. This act would remain a thorn in his side, even though he knew he was forgiven by the Lord, and had received Christ’s forgiveness.
Coming from the stance of the one abused, hearing such a story did further shatter my trust in the beginning. Some would even say, how could you extend trust towards such a man now? He didn’t deserve it. This man, however, like David in the Bible, truly repented, turned, and tried to make things right the best he could. Like David paid the price of his firstborn son from Bathsheba, he also had consequences.
For my former pastor, the dark cloud hung over his head periodically for he rest of his life. There are consequences to our behavior. What we do, does effect people, sometimes for generations past us. Yet, God forgave this man. And so did I.
There are others in leadership who are wolves in sheep’s clothing, who like the enemy, are seeking those they can devour. For these, like Saul, who refused to repent, they will eventually face the Great Judge who brings all to the light.
One of my life chapters in the Bible, is Psalms 32 TPL. It is the cry of repentance from David’s heart. As I read it this week, a different part caught my attention. “This what I’ve learned through it all: All believers should confess their sins to God; do it every time God has uncovered you in the time of exposing. For if you do this, when sudden storms of life overwhelm, you’ll be kept safe.” The time of exposing, hmm.
See, God is really good, merciful, and full of grace. There is a time frame He gives all of us to turn, to allow Him to uncover things in our lives, the secret things, the behind the closed door things. If we will allow Him to convict us, bring truth to us, repent, and bring healing to us, then when the storms of life come, we will be kept safe.
If we refuse His prodding, His gentle leading, His convicting, then we will still experience exposure, but it will be through the hard storms of life, and we will not be kept safe.
All of us have things in our hearts that need to be uncovered and dealt with by the Lord. Some just have more severe consequences than others.
Sadly, for church leadership, church culture has made it much more difficult for them be vulnerable. This is no excuse for the wolves mind you. Please hear me say all of us need to be held accountable for the things we do. It’s called the body, a family, a community of believers.
Seemingly, across the board, church leaders have been made into celebrities, put on pedestals, and are looked to as gods, with others idolizing them. They aren’t allowed to be human, make mistakes, be vulnerable. For that matter, how many sitting in the pews are willing to be vulnerable with each other. Aren’t we mostly waiting for someone to cast the first stone?
Often, those in leadership aren’t held accountable for their actions. This breeds abuse. If exposure does happen, it’s hidden, and people turn their heads the other way, until it directly hurts them. If it is dealt with, then often times the leaders are left on the side of the road bleeding, while the next great man of God comes on the scene.
I really believe we are getting ready to experience one of the greatest shifts in the body of Christ that has ever occurred, and I believe that time frame of exposing by the Lord in grace is coming to an end for many people. Something has got to change in us, in our mindset, in our hearts.
We are all called to be kings and priests before the Lord, a royal priesthood, a holy nation. There was never supposed to be a go between. We all are meant to have Jesus as our head, and we are all the body, though we have different functions.
Yes, we will always have some form of leadership, just as a family has fathers and mothers to lead the younger children until they grow up in maturity to be fathers and mothers. We are all to be accountable to each other, not condemning one another, but in love holding each other to the standard of the Word, walking in grace.
When someone messes up, they should be confronted, counseled, restored, if they are repentant. If they refuse the time of exposing, then they are choosing the storms without protection. In other words, we are instructed to cut ties, and let them go, but that’s only if they refuse to repent when it is really sinful things they are involved in. In this case, there is nothing more that can be done, but allow God to deal with them.
None of us are without sin. Though we are made new creations in Christ Jesus, we still struggle with our human nature, like my former pastor did. Let’s not put them on the pedestals, but allow our leaders to vulnerable, human even, and truly love each other.
I pray that we all seek love, hold on to mercy, and walk humbly with each other and our wonderful God. Doesn’t He deserve a bride worthy of Him? He will have her. We must be ready.
Very well said. I am in total agreement.
Thank you for this post.
With all the leadership issues being exposed, this topic needs to be addressed in a healthy way.
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JD, I don’t know that this minister was able to fully forgive and experience a full release. I know the Lord wipes away all our shame and guilt. From my experience, the hardest person for me to forgive is myself.
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Great post! A wonderful reminder for us not to put our eyes on man, but keep our eyes on God. I had to wonder, as I was reading your post, if the Pastor ever forgave himself for his fall. We have all sinned, and in my mind sin is sin with little differentiation in severity. When God forgives us, when we truly repent, then that sin is the past. God forgets it, but often we cannot. I think it okay to have regret; it’s not okay to live in regret. If we are. If our past still causes us great pain, then has God truly released us from it, or have we failed to release ourselves? It makes me ask myself the question “Since I’m still holding on and hurting over this, even though I believe God has forgiven me, am I placing myself above God?” Thanks so much for sharing this insightful post.
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This is my prayer, too: “I pray that we all seek love, hold on to mercy, and walk humbly with each other and our wonderful God.” Thanks for sharing!
Great post! I agree with so many things you brought up. Too many pastors are being idolized by the Church. That creates pride and destruction for our pastors. They need to be held accountable but PRAYED FOR OFTEN. Satan wants to bring them down; he wants to ruin them and give Christ a bad name.