Archive for the 'Betrayed' Category

5 Lessons I Learned from a Pastor’s Betrayal (Part 5)

In March of 2014 I experienced a significant betrayal by a man who befriended me, infiltrated my church and stole my identity. This series of posts is a reflection on what the Lord has taught me through this heartbreaking experience. You can read the earlier posts here.

practical Much of what goes on in the day to day life of the church is rather mundane. There are phone calls to be made, sermons to write, and policies to consider. The last major lesson that I took away from this experience was how invaluable those policies can be in a situation like the one that we faced.

There are two policies in particular that were very helpful to our church 1) In order to serve in high level leadership (i.e. elders, deacons, etc.) you need to have been a member for more than a year. 2) All of our financial dealings require multiple authorizations in order to have access to church funds.

Because of the first policy Jack was kept out of high level leadership, although he did preach a few times and helped me lead Home Groups. Because of the second policy there was no way for Jack to have access to any church funds at all.

I guess the big take away for me is that these policies really do matter. They aren’t just the church talking to itself, because they setup an environment that makes it harder for predators to harm the church.

September 22 2014 | Betrayed and Blog | Comments Off on 5 Lessons I Learned from a Pastor’s Betrayal (Part 5)

5 Lessons I Learned from a Pastor’s Betrayal (Part 4)

In March of 2014 I experienced a significant betrayal by a man who befriended me, infiltrated my church and stole my identity. This series of posts is a reflection on what the Lord has taught me through this heartbreaking experience. You can read the earlier posts here.

shepherd-in-wildernessEver since I was introduced to the concept of church discipline I’ve believed in it. After all, it’s pretty hard to to deny a doctrine that is so clearly taught in Scripture (Matthew 18:15-20). However, there is a big difference between believing something intellectually and actually putting that belief into practice.

During this whole ordeal the elders met at least two or three times a week to pray and to determine the right course of action. When it was clear that Jack was unrepentant, it was equally clear to each of us that we had a responsibility to remove him from membership and to publically address his lack of repentance. What was unclear was exactly how to do that. Should this be done during a Sunday morning service? What about writing a letter? What about a special meeting?

After speaking with several seasoned pastors we decided that because Jack had preached at our church and lead communion that our response needed to be of an equally public nature. We ended up having an abbreviated Sunday morning service (one hour) with worship, preaching, etc. At the end of the service we had a closing song and reminded the congregation (who had been informed ahead of time by e-mail, social media, etc.) that we would like those who call Cool Community their church home to please remain and that we would be having a special meeting shortly. This allowed visitors the opportunity to leave, while ensuring that members of our church family would be present for the proceedings.

It’s hard to know how people will respond to this kind of thing, especially since it is so rare for churches to carry out church discipline. Cool Community hadn’t done this in over 20 years and no one that I talked to had ever seen this done in any other context, which is why I remain profoundly humbled by the response of our congregation. 100% of the feedback that we received through written correspondence, personal interactions, etc. was positive. To this day, in a church of over 200 there has not been one negative response to any of the proceedings. In fact, the most common thing that I have heard people say as we’ve talked through these events is, “Thank you! We feel so safe here knowing that this church is dealing with sin biblically and that you are serious when you talk about holiness.”

On a personal note, I have never been more fully conscience of the personal presence of Jesus Christ than in the meeting (Matthew 18:20 ). It was a holy and precious moment that I wouldn’t trade for all of the suffering and heartache that these events created.

September 15 2014 | Betrayed | Comments Off on 5 Lessons I Learned from a Pastor’s Betrayal (Part 4)

5 Lessons I Learned from a Pastor’s Betrayal (Part 3)

In March of 2014 I experienced a significant betrayal by a man who befriended me, infiltrated my church and stole my identity. This series of posts is a reflection on what the Lord has taught me through this heartbreaking experience. You can read the earlier posts here.

Wolf3 The third lesson that I learned through my experiences with Jack & Jenny is how easily I can be fooled and how gracious God is in preserving His church.

There’s a reason why the Bible warns us about spiritual predators. In Acts 20:29 Paul tells the Ephesian elders, “I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock.” Spiritual predators are incredibly dangerous and yet they can be remarkably difficult to identify. Even in Acts 20 Paul says that these wolves “will come in among you.” In other words, these spiritual predators are going to look just like you and so you need to be on your guard.

Looking back on my relationship with Jack I am still shocked by how much he looked like a sheep, when in reality he was a wolf. I mentioned earlier that Jack and I shared a room together at the Shepherds’ Conference but the “spiritual” dimension of our relationship was even deeper than that. We would spend many hours talking about the ministry, about the joys and sorrows of preaching, about seminary (Jack had actually been to seminary), about the original languages (Jack was well versed in Greek and was familiar enough with Hebrew), about theology and many other “spiritual” subjects.

My first thought when I found out what Jack had done was, “How could I be so stupid?” I guess that’s the thing with wolves in sheep’s clothing…they look just like sheep. It’s humbling to discover how easily you can be fooled, but at the same time this whole incident has reminded me of how gracious God is in caring for His flock in spite of the dangers that we all face.

September 08 2014 | Betrayed | Comments Off on 5 Lessons I Learned from a Pastor’s Betrayal (Part 3)

5 Lessons I Learned from a Pastor’s Betrayal (Part 2)

In March of 2014 I experienced a significant betrayal by a man who befriended me, infiltrated my church and stole my identity. This series of posts is a reflection on what the Lord has taught me through this heartbreaking experience. You can read the first post here.

POLICE_CAR8645 It is the nature of children & criminals to believe that their sins will not be found out. However, God has a much different take on things, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap” (Galatians 6:7). While criminals like Jack & Jenny are convinced that they will never be held to account for their crimes, the truth is that one way or another everyone reaps what they sow.

As we were going through the discipline process with Jack it became clear that we had a responsibility to notify the Sheriff’s Department and ask for their help. This resulted in many long conversations with deputies, detectives, lawyers, etc. (at one point Jack and his wife were questioned at the church by a deputy).

Financial fraud is an exceedingly difficult crime to investigate. It requires multiple warrants, the cooperation of scores of financial institutions and an acutely sharp mind to follow the money and obtain all of the necessary documentation. God was gracious enough to provide a detective for our case who was able to do all of that and then some. Unfortunately, by the time he was able to obtain an arrest warrant Jack and his wife had fled town and were nowhere to be found.

This lead to months of waiting, praying and wondering if Jack would ever be brought to justice for his crimes. On August 2nd we received word that Jack had been picked up by the police in another county. More than that, we also learned that that county had built their own case (independent of our case) against Jack and against his wife (she was also charged) for fraud, forgery and elder abuse. The story was such big news that the local media in that county had run newspaper articles, blog posts and reports on the evening news.

Today, Jack is sitting in a prison cell waiting for his first hearing. My prayer is that he is learning the truth of Galatians 6:7, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.” One way or another everyone reaps what they sow. It may not always happen in this life, but the justice of God will not be thwarted. God will not be mocked. When a man sows seeds of destruction, he will one day reap the consequences.

September 01 2014 | Betrayed | 1 Comment »

5 Lessons I Learned from a Pastor’s Betrayal (Part 1)

sad-man One of the pitfalls of our instantaneous digital age is the temptation to write about experiences immediately, rather than allowing yourself to marinate in them and to invest the necessary time to allow God to work them deep into your heart.  In March of this year I and my church experienced an unprecedented betrayal from a man who was a member of our church and had served as a pastor at another local church. It’s only now, some five months later, that enough time has passed where I sense the clarity of mind to really evaluate these experiences and to talk about what I’ve learned.

In 2012 I was introduced to a local pastor named Jack [I’ve chosen to change the names of Jack & his wife for the purposes of this series of posts]. Jack was having a very difficult time at his church, so I befriended him and did what I could to offer help / counsel as he worked through the issues there. Eventually Jack’s church closed and he and his wife (Jenny) began attending Cool Community Church. At first Jack seemed like a gift from God. He was a capable preacher, he was helpful during hospital visitations and was always available. Over the course of 2013 our families became very close, spending a lot of time together every week, sharing meals, etc. Jack and I even shared a room together at the 2013 Shepherds’ Conference and enjoyed many late night conversations about the Lord and about the ministry.

Towards the end of 2013 I started to notice some odd things in their family. They always seemed to be in financial distress, yet Jack claimed that he made a fantastic salary as an insurance salesman. There were other lingering questions, but never enough to make me suspect any duplicity on their part. I simply assumed that they were going through a rough patch as a family and that they would eventually pull out of it.

My naiveté was revealed in March of 2014 when I discovered that Jack had stolen my identity, opened up credit cards in my name and begun making charges on them. Through the course of a lengthy investigation I also discovered that he had committed insurance fraud against some of our dearest friends in the church, posing to be an insurance salesman by taking their money but never issuing insurance (it turns out Jack did not have an license to sell insurance). By God’s grace that was the extent of the damage at our church, but upon further investigation we found another church who’s members had been defrauded of tens of thousands of dollars and one other church that had members defrauded of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

We immediately entered into a process of church discipline with Jack and begged him to repent, but after many meetings and a lot of legwork on my part (culminating in a trip to the California Secretary of State’s Office) it became clear that despite his words Jack was absolutely committed to the darkness of his sin, so we warned the church, removed him from membership and contacted the other local churches in our area to warn them about him.

My greatest concern through this whole process was for the church body. It was clear that a wolf had been amongst us, but it wasn’t clear what the extent of the damage was and to tell you the truth I was quite scared.

There are at least five big lessons that the Lord has taught me through this experience, which I plan on writing about in coming weeks. But, if there was only one lesson that I could share with you about this journey it would be this: God is faithful. Even in the darkest valleys, even through the deepest betrayals, God remains faithful. The faithfulness of God was a rock in the midst of a hurricane that went on for months. It sustained me, upheld me and was my greatest comfort and encouragement to do what was right.

Five months later it is becoming increasingly clear that the Lord has seen us through all of these events without any lasting repercussions. In fact, I believe that our church is much stronger today than it would have been if we had not gone through this. We baptized 16 people this last Sunday at the river, our nursery is nearly overflowing, we just received 7 new members into our fellowship and our next membership class has more than 20 people signed up already!

Hebrews 6:17-18 – “…when God desires to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us…”

August 25 2014 | Betrayed | Comments Off on 5 Lessons I Learned from a Pastor’s Betrayal (Part 1)