There is really no point being too reserved with this post. So hold on to your sensibilities.
My first real pastor was a passionate preacher. I used to buy his tapes (take note Millennials) and listen to them in my RX4 coupe. He was a funny and impressive communicator. It was him who gave me the example of what a pastor could be like. He also discipled me and led a great young adults bible study. To be honest, some of the phrases and devices I use today were totally from him. He was my first real spiritual mentor.
Unfortunately when I got back from Bible College, after being away for three years, the church had changed and my Pastor was gone. He had had a affair, which he never really admitted or dealt with. I saw him years later and had a great deal of affection for him. However it was not the same. Alcohol and adultery change you. Many years later I found out about some of the unhealthy leadership which had put immense pressure on him. Amongst the success of the church there where many who did not look out for him. But he must take responsibility for the choices he made.
A few years later I found myself in ministry myself and leading a church. I was desperate for some keys to see the church grow. This is what I had been asked to do. I sought out another mentor. He was a fairly recent addition to his church and saw almost immediate and spectacular growth. The church went from about 40 regulars to over 200 in a short period of time. I asked him how he grew the church and he said, ‘one person at a time”.
I was not that long after that that rumours started to surface about my new mentor. Turns out he had at least one affair, probably more. His ministry at that church was terminated and it was pretty messy and pretty public from that point on.
There have been a few others which have affected me, but affected their marriages, churches and communities a lot more.
Which brings us to the latest very public scandal enveloping someone whose hand I have shook, but thats about the extent of our relationship, at least from his side. He is someone whose books I have read, leadership podcasts I have subscribed to and conferences I have travelled around the world to be a part of. This latest scandal is far from clear. Some of what he has been accused of, while inappropriate, does not seem to me to be anything worth the effect it has brought. Other stories however do seem far more troubling. And I must admit the patterns of behaviour are concerning.
Either way, he is now out of ministry, guilty of at least a severe lack of wisdom, by his own admission. However at worse a pattern of behaviour that has weaved its way through his ministry. I actually don’t know what to think about this latest one. People of real integrity have different views on both sides.
Do any of these stories discount the positive effect every one of these ministers and mentors have had on my ministry? Perhaps they do, to be honest. Right now I am feeling pretty disappointed. People may say, trust in Jesus, follow His lead. And that is entirely correct. But God in His wisdom, has given us as other humans to learn off, to grow with and even to follow. Somewhere along the line they will all let us down.
There are now young men and women in my church who only have known me as their pastor. I literally have pastored in the church before they were born, and they are now early ’20’s. Today a great family who used to attend Inglewood years ago returned for a visit. I asked the teenage children if they remembered me. Of course they said, we know who you are!
Lord, my feet are made of clay. Let me stay the course, be a mentor, not let You or others down to the point of discouragement.