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)

The Greatest Peril of the Ministry

We’re in the middle of the busiest season of the year here at Cool Community Church. We have dozens of programs, initiatives, etc. that will all be launching in the next month along with nearly half a dozen building projects that are already in process. In his book Gathered Gold Andrew Bonar makes the following observation that I found very helpful/convicting today:

‘One of the gravest perils which besets the ministry is a restless scattering of energies over an amazing multiplicity of interests, which leaves no margin, time, and strength for receptive and absorbing communion with God.’

August 20 2014 | Blog | 1 Comment »

The One Thing Due Every Minister

On January 27, 1854 Charles Spurgeon accepted a call to be the pastor of the New Park Street Baptist Church in London. In his acceptance letter Spurgeon wrote the following about what every church owes their pastor.

…And now one thing is due to ever minister, and I pray you to remind the church of it, namely, that in private, as well as in public, they must all earnestly wrestle in prayer to the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, that I may be sustained in the great work.

The relationship between a pastor and his church is a beautiful weaving together of two hearts, which is only made possible through prayer. I know from personal experience that the one thing I need from the good people of Cool Community Church is what Spurgeon requests here from the New Park Street church, that they would labor in prayer on my behalf.

July 23 2014 | Blog | Comments Off on The One Thing Due Every Minister

What Should a Pastor Pray for When Going into a Tense Meeting?

One of the harder parts of pastoral ministry is attending (or initiating) meetings where you know there is going to be significant tension. Here are a few of the things that I pray for when entering into one of those difficult meetings.

1) Thick Skin…because there’s a good chance that something will be said in the heat of the moment that will hurt.

2) A Quick Mind…so that I can really listen to what’s being said and apply Scripture appropriately.

3) A Surgeon’s Skill…so that I can choose my words carefully and truly be of help.

4) A Tender Heart…so that I will be willing to look at myself and find places in my life that I need to change.

September 16 2013 | Blog | Comments Off on What Should a Pastor Pray for When Going into a Tense Meeting?

Crazy Expectations

There are many struggles in a pastors’ life, but I don’t know if any of them are as difficult as struggling with other people’s expectations of you. After almost 12 years in full time ministry, meeting other people’s expectations of me continues to be the single most difficult thing that I struggle with. That’s why the following paragraphs were three of the most helpful that I’ve read (outside of the Bible) in the last six months. They come from Kevin DeYoung’s upcoming book Crazy Busy, which I’ll have a review up of in a couple of weeks.

Almost any Christian can make a case that their thing should be the main thing or at least one of the most important things. It’s easy for preachers and leaders, or just plain old Christian friends, to pound away at “more” – we should pray more, give more, show hospitality more, share our faith more, read our Bibles more, volunteer more…

I think most Christians hear these urgent calls to do more (or feel them internally already) and learn to live with a low-level guilt that comes from not doing enough. We know we can always pray more and give more and evangelize more, so we get used to living in a state of mild disappointment with ourselves…

Every Christians must be prepared to give an answer for the reason for the hope that we have (1 Pet. 3:15), but not everyone will do beach evangelism. Every Christian should be involved in the Great Commission, but not everyone will move overseas. Every Christian should oppose abortion, but not everyone will adopt or volunteer at a crisis pregnancy center. We need Christians who spend their lives improving inner city schools and Christians whose dream is to get great theological books translated into Polish. And we need Christians who don’t make others feel guilty (and don’t feel guilty themselves) when one of us follows a different passion than another…We have to be okay with other Christians doing certain good things better and more often than we do

1000x300banner_2

August 28 2013 | Blog | Comments Off on Crazy Expectations

All the Things that People Say…

listeningI think one of the hardest aspects of pastoral ministry is the sheer number of voices and opinions about what you should and should not be doing. Many pastors are naturally inclined to be “people pleasers”, we don’t like it when people disapprove of or dislike us so we tend to be very conscientious about what others think and how they feel. In other words, we can suffer greatly from what the Bible calls “the fear of man” (Proverbs 29:25).

Now, it is true that pastors are called to the ministry of shepherding the flock of God and this ministry is by nature a very tender ministry. Good shepherds lead the sheep, they don’t drive them. Good shepherds care for the sheep, they don’t bully them. So, how can we make sure that we are listening well and shepherding well and at the same time that we don not give in to the fear of man?

I think Solomon offers some very helpful counsel on this point when he writes, “Do not take to heart all the things that people say…” (Ecclesiastes 7:21). It’s one thing to listen, to sift through and to make wise decisions based on the feedback that you’re getting. It’s another thing to take every piece of feedback “to heart,” which will inevitably paralyze you from making any decisions at all. Ultimately it is before our own Master that we must give an account for our care of the flock and praise Him that “He is able to make us stand” (Romans 14:4).

August 26 2013 | Blog | Comments Off on All the Things that People Say…

Must Read Advice for Pastor’s of Small Churches

Glenn Daman has some must read advice for pastor’s of small churches in the latest issue of Voice, which is the journal of the Independent Fundamentalist Churches of America (IFCA).

house06Being effective in the small church comes when the leadership first accepts the people for who they are learns to value the way they express their faith. Too many new pastors come in with the idea that they must drastically alter things and drag the church kicking and screaming into the pastor’s ideas of what a modern church should be. This not only results in frustrating in both the leadership and the people, but it involves a rejection of many of the key values that bind the small church together.

While spiritual change and spiritual growth are always vital in every church regardless of size, the small church pastor’s ministry should be built on preaching / teaching the Word of God and discipling people, interwoven with love and acceptance of the people. Accepting the small church begins by understanding the characteristics that undergird its ministry. The wise church leader needs to carefully consider the unique values, beliefs, customs, traditions and attitudes of the congregation. Every church has a distinct set of cultural norms and expectations that set it apart. To be accepted as a leader of the group a person must understand, share, and affirm these cultural norms, otherwise the person will be viewed as an outsider. Before a pastor has earned the right to attempt changes in the small church, he must first show that he values and accepts the people for who they are, how they worship and serve, and how they live out their faith in the context of a congregational community [emphasis mine].

July 29 2013 | Blog | Comments Off on Must Read Advice for Pastor’s of Small Churches

The Pastor Must Watch

Now, if every man is surrounded by perils, if the universe is alive with forces hostile to the soul, then watchfulness becomes one of the most critical of all the pastor’s responsibilities, for to him precious lives are committed, lives for which he is to render an account. Watching, surveying, scanning the horizon, peering into the darkness of days not yet born, spying out the interior nature of forces which are working like insidious and poisonous leavens, calculating the advent of storms asleep as yet in the caves of coming days. – The Minister as Shepherd

June 26 2013 | Blog | Comments Off on The Pastor Must Watch

On Spiritual Healing

The diseases of the soul are multitudinous, and the remedies provided by the Almighty are efficacious only when applied by a skilled practitioner. Nowhere else does the minister need such piercing insight, such fine powers of discrimination, such skill in diagnosis, and such ability to cope with subtle and mysterious forces, as here. – The Minister as Shepherd

June 19 2013 | Blog | Comments Off on On Spiritual Healing

Simply for Jesus Sake

The finest test of the consecration of a minister of Christ is not in his public performances, but in what he does when the world is not looking. It is hard for a man to tell when he is preaching whether he is preaching for himself or for God. To open up glorious ideas, to clothe them with language which glows and speak them in tones which burn-all this is so delightful that it is not easy for the preacher to say just why he likes to do it. But in the obscurity of pastoral service, he has an opportunity to ascertain whether he really loves god, and how much he is willing to do for people simply for Jesus’ sake. – Charles Jefferson, The Minister as Shepherd

April 17 2013 | Blog | Comments Off on Simply for Jesus Sake

Next »