What I Wish I’d Learned From Hershael York

(Over the next few posts, I’m going to talk about several reasons why the book “Fallen Pastor” is for anyone concerned about the future of the church. We are in the midst of a crisis and need to understand how to approach it).

Listen to me. When I graduated from THE Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in December of 2000, I thought I was the bomb. Master of Divinity at my side, I saw great things – in my mind.

I don’t think that made me too different than many other seminary graduates. Well, at least the prideful ones. In my mind, I was going to bag a smaller church, move to a medium sized church, then WHAMMO! I was going to be sitting pretty at a megachurch one day. Heck. I deserved it. I had a seminary degree. In the middle of all those church exchanges, I was going to earn my Doctor of Ministry (so everyone would have to call me “Doctor Ray”, of course) and I would be sitting pretty.

If you read my blog, you know what happened to me in 2009. I committed adultery. Pastoral ministry was a thing of the past. It was long gone. My relationship with my first wife was over and irreconcilable. I married Allison and we moved on. I started anonymously blogging after that and wrote a book about what happened and how future pastors could avoid the temptation of moral failure.

I interviewed a lot of fallen pastors. Their stories broke my heart because they sounded identical to mine – and I’ll blog about that later.

But I also interviewed a lot of experts. One in particular was Hershael York. His official title is the Victor and Louise Lester Professor of Christian Preaching at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is also the Associate Dean of Ministry and Proclamation.

I interviewed him for my book. But before I get to that, let me tell you what I thought about him when I was at seminary.

I was scared to death of him. I heard horror stories. “If you want an easy ‘A’, don’t take Dr. York. Seriously. He will tear you up and spit you out.” Then I would hear this: “But if you want to become the best preacher possible, take him as many times as you can. He will make you into an honorable preacher and a man of God.”

I heard one apocryphal story (apocryphal meaning, ‘If it isn’t true, it should be’) that a student went up to him and said, “I want you to grade me as hard as you can on my sermon.” He agreed. After the student minister was done, Dr. York gave him the heavy hand on everything he had done wrong, but said, “You have a great heart and a ton of potential. You will do well.”

That scared me. I stayed far away from Dr. York while in seminary. I got ‘A’s’ while in seminary in my preaching classes. But I’ll tell you this – all of my friends who took him for preaching have become phenomenal ministers of the gospel. They took him and his loving criticism and became better men for it. Thank God for men like Hershael York.

It wasn’t until over a year ago that I even talked to him. I was a miserable fallen pastor looking for help with my book. I heard that he had a heart for fallen pastors. At that time, I had perceived him to be some seminary professor living in an ivory tower, ready to destroy anyone who was full of sin. But I was terribly, terribly wrong. My first instinct came when I got his voicemail. It said, “You know who it is, you know what to do.” BEEEEEEEEEP. I let my daughter, who was 12 at the time listen to that. She loved it so much it’s her voicemail to this day.

When I interviewed him about fallen pastors and what they go through, I found a man who was so loving, so caring, and yet so passionate, I found myself being counseled by his words. While I was talking to him, I suddenly wished I had taken him for every class possible while I was at Southern.

He listened to my story of my failure, hurt for me and asked me questions. Then he was very honest with me. Scripturally honest with me. It was more than an interview. It was him helping me in my process. One of the first things he said to me was this about pastors who fall:

“It’s like a diamond being cut and polished. I saw this happen once in Tel Aviv. I asked the man cutting the diamond, ‘What happens if you make a misktake? What happens if you cut too deep?’ The cutter said, ‘Well, then I have to go and cut every other side exactly like that to match.’ So I said, ‘If you miscut you’ve diminished the value of it.’ He said, ‘Absolutely.’ I think of it like that. A man who has fallen, there’s no question he’s diminished something. He’s still a diamond and of great worth, but he’s not what he could have been had he not fallen.”

He was one of the first people who heard through my anger, my problems and spoke directly to me. He read my book and I don’t think he agreed with all I had to say, but he let me quote him anyway. But one quote he gave me is one that I keep close to my heart every day. He said this: If a fallen pastor is going to make it in this world, “his repentance has to be more notorious than his sin.”

We talked about pastors who are looking for comfort beyond their spouses. Men who break and find a woman who is meeting their needs. He brought it down to very simple terms for me:

“Every time you have an affair with anybody, I don’t care who you are, in a sense, you’re having an affair with a fantasy and not a real person. Because the person you’ve got to pay the mortgage with, deal with the kids’ soccer schedule with, the one whose vomit you wipe up when they’re sick, that’s the real person you live with. Twenty minutes in the sack on a Tuesday afternoon is really not love. You’ve got to tell yourself that. You’ve got to awaken yourself to the fact that it’s fantasy. If you end up with the person you had an affair with, I guarantee you once you get married you have to face the same issues and same struggles. You cannot take two totally depraved human beings, stick them in the same house and not have friction.”

Finally, I asked him, “When does a church give up on a pastor? How long do they wait for him to be repentant? How long do they walk with him?” This question had haunted me for a long time and Dr. York gave me a very down to earth answer:

“A church’s posture has to be guided by whether or not there is repentance, because your posture has to be one thing if a person is living in defiance and embracing their sin. Then you have to confront. 1 Corinthians 5 kicks in and Paul describes as turning them over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh. There’s nothing pretty about that. But if a person is broken and repentant over their sin, even if they want to be and they’re not there yet, but they want to be. They may say, ‘It’s hard for me to leave this 23 year old girl who thinks I hung the moon and go back to a wife I struggled with for the past 20 years, but I want to do that because it honors the Lord.’ Well, if a guy says that, then by all means, you’ve got to walk that walk with him, or see that someone does. Because sometimes the unity of the church matters too and the leaders in the church have to take care of the church but what they cannot do is just abandon the one in sin and say, ‘Well, you’re on your own.’”

I love Dr. York. He’s been at the forefront of a lot of political issues in the Bluegrass state and hasn’t backed down. He is a man of great character and loves his wife deeply. He knows what is at stake for pastors and lets the men he teaches at seminary know the dangers. I am proud of him and that Southern has such a great man there to help them.

I was intrigued recently by a Twitter/Facebook interaction he had regarding the removal of Joe Paterno’s statue at Penn State.

His first post said this: The removal of the Paterno statue is brutal evidence of the limitations of human judgment. “All of our heroes are flawed–except One.”

Of course, he got some flak from people who didn’t understand the point he was trying to make. Then he posted this: “Will they be taking Michelangelo’s David down now?” The idea is that since David committed adultery and killed Bathsheba’s husband, should we take down Michelangelo’s David? Excellent point. But he still got grief.

Then, the most beautiful post of the day, which I referenced in a recent post of mine: “To clarify my previous tweets, I fully support the removal of the Paterno statue. My point is that the people we idolize are all fallen.

When I interviewed him, that was the underlying idea. We are all fallen. Every one of us. Every one of us is moments away from a fall. But that’s why we all need to be surrounded by accountability, strong wives, and an understanding of the fear of God.

In fact, he told me at one point – and I don’t have the exact quote – that if he fell from the ministry, he would have nothing. He’d be delivering pizzas. He has an amazing fear of God, something that is strangely missing from this society and from many of our pastors. It was missing from me.

When we lack the fear of God, we will no longer fear man. Or our sin. Or ourselves. That’s what Dr. York taught me. I wish I had learned it from him sooner. I wish I hadn’t been afraid to take his classes when I was a student at Southern.

_______________________________

All quotes from Dr. York were taken from his Facebook page or from “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World” by Ray Carroll. This post was approved by Dr. York before it was published and I am indebted to him for that.

SBCVoices and the Calvinist/Arminian Debate

My blog is linked to SBC Voices. I love that site. My blog gets a lot of hits from there and I appreciate it.

I also must let you know that there is a terrible wallowing of opinion between Calvinist vs. Arminian voices over there. It’s kind of noisy. When I was in seminary at the flagship school of the Southern Baptist Convention, that stuff really meant a lot to me. I was a T-Shirt wearing, dyed in the wool Calvinist.

But I wasn’t when I got there. I had a friend talk me into it. His ideas and persuasions were on point. So were my professors.

Since then, I’ve committed adultery and fallen from ministry. I’ve had the time to read message board after message board of angry Calvinists and Arminians. People telling me why I or someone else was wrong. Oh my, it gets really weird. After my fall from ministry, I just don’t care about which theologian’s side I’m on anymore. (I can hear you: Yes, but if we don’t have theology, we won’t know what we believe! I’m not talking about doing away with theology, I’m talking about thumping our chests in the online world over who our theological heroes are and why we’re right.)

I remember in my days as a hard core Calvinist, I went to stay with my brother in law who was a so-so Arminian. He had a tote bag that had on the side, “Whosoever will may come.” It ticked me off. Because I was convinced whoever designed it and had underlined the word “whosoever” was anti-Calvin. I wanted to secretly take it away and burn it.

Now, I know, that’s just plain Scripture. Whosoever will may come. I’m still a sovereigntist. I can’t explain to you why I committed adultery except I’m a sinner. I can’t explain why David committed adultery. He was a sinner. We call Jesus the Son of David. That’s crazy.

The worst thing we can do is keep arguing in front of people about why we think we’re right. The best thing we can do is go hold high the supremacy of God in the universe and His saving power. Hide behind your internet anonymity if you want and argue the Canons of Dort. If it makes you happy, go for it. But if you haven’t stood in the middle of the mall and asked someone about their salvation, your theology is bleak.

I’ve fallen a long way. A long way. And a lot of people hate me for it. But I can do one thing right. I can cast aside my ultra-superior-arrogant love for a theological system and begin to focus on Christ and those He came to save. I can realize that there are millions out there who he would identify with who would look nothing like me and go tell them about the good news. I can love those who have fallen, those who are different, those who need help and those who are generally ignored by the church.

Every ten minutes I spend writing or reading on a Calvinistic/non-Calvinistic message board is ten minutes I could have told someone about the life changing experience Christ could give them. (By the way, the blog posts are usually great, it’s delving into the board posts that makes you want to put your waders on.) It has nothing to do with Jacob Arminius or John Calvin. It has everything to do with Jesus Christ.

So, I propose leaving the arguments to sweat and cigar smoke filled rooms where people can argue all day without the passing, immature believer can drop by and not quite understand what is going on. Either that or we may have to get Henry Kissinger involved. Worse, we may all have to go out and witness together. That is if we can keep from witnessing to each other…

Cutting the Old Testament Israelites a Break

I grew up Southern Baptist. Please don’t judge me too harshly.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the story. About the Israelites wandering through the wilderness from Egypt to the Promised Land. It was a trip that should have taken a couple of months. But because  of their whining, disobedience and poor attitude, God let them wander for a whole generation until they reached their final destination.

Heck, even Moses messed up one time (actually a few times) and wasn’t able to enter the promised land. Right before he died he could only view it from the heights of Mt. Pisgah and grieve over the sin that kept him out.

Now, let me tell you how the Israelites’ sin is usually discussed in Southern Baptist Sunday schools:

“These people were being led by God. Yet every day they found something new to complain about. They had God sent manna from heaven, God leading the way, solid leadership and had been set free from the slavery of Egypt. Yet, they somehow found a way to complain about something.”

Of course, after years of this indoctrination, you begin to think two things. First, you think, “Silly Israelites. How could they ever complain? They have God. What a bunch of whiners!”

That charge is burned into you for a long time as a Southern Baptist. It sure is easy to think that when you’re 12, sitting in Sunday School while eating a donut and wearing a clip on tie. It’s always easier to judge people when you have 20/20 hindsight and are reading the story of people who have already experienced the pain.

The second thing you think is this: “If that had been me, I would have been a faithful follower of God. I would’ve followed that pillar of fire to the ends of the earth and never complained.”

Yeah, right. Think about it for a moment. Thousands of people pilgrimaging out of the land they grew up in, some of the elderly, some pregnant, all of them just witnessing the plagues of Egypt first hand, not sure where they’re going, some dying along the way, no shower stalls available, hot sun during the day, cold nights, etc.

I had a stern revelation the other day that slapped my Sunday School righteousness out of me. I’ve mentioned my hobby before – geocaching. It’s like a world wide treasure hunt. You use a GPS enabled device to find little containers people have hidden. Some are really easy to find and some are more challenging. Chances are there are some near your house. The iPhone has a geocaching app for beginners if you’re interested. Some have little toys for the kids to find in them and they have a log to sign in them to show you’ve been there. It’s free and it’s a lot of fun.

One of the joys of geocaching is to be the first to find a cache someone has hidden. I hadn’t been the first to find yet and I saw a new cache had been published at the Land Between the Lakes National Park near our home. Did I say near? I thought it was near. On the drive there, I remembered it was about an hour and a half. But that’s okay. It was about finding the cache first.

When I finally arrived at LBL, I found a place to park on a side road and realized the geocache was a mile hike into the woods. Now, a disclaimer. I am a rabid indoorsman. I really don’t like going outdoors a lot. Mowing the lawn isn’t my thing. But I figured I’d find a trail and walk right up to it. In reality, there was a game trail. For those who don’t know, a game trail is a trail that five people walk down a year and deer use regularly. I was able to follow it pretty well.

In about an hour, I found the cache and signed the log. That was after sliding down a ravine, taking six breaks and being thankful I had brought a bottled water with me. That was on the way in.

On the way out, I spilled my water. I found the trail, I thought, and started walking. In circles. For a while. Down a ravine (not the same one I had gone down on the way in). I went up a steep hill (very steep). Stopped 20 times to rest. Three hours later, I had to admit I was lost. On my last rest, I looked down and saw a deer tick on my shoe. I’ve never had a deer tick on me. I complained. Loudly.

I then realized I had been complaining out loud for the past three hours. I’m sure nature was getting tired of my loud complaining. I was probably killing trees with my whining.

Then it hit me. I had only been in the stinking woods for four hours and I was already a rampant whiner/complainer. My mind settled on the Israelites and how I had become so judgmental toward them while I was in Sunday School. They had a right to complain, I thought. Darnit, if I had been there, wandering through the desert, I would have been the worst of them:

“Moses, are we there yet? When are we stopping for water? Did you see the size of that snake? Does anyone have a camel I can ride?”

I did eventually find my way out as my complaining turned to severe prayers for help. I was covered in sweat, exhausted and weak. When I got home, we pulled thirty deer ticks off me. They were crawling inside my shirt and shoes. It was lovely.

But at that point, I decided not to complain. I knew a whole bunch of people who had been through worse. And I had a new found admiration for them.

Why We’re All Pharisees, Part One: Introduction

I already hate this post. Not because of what it is, but because of what it could become.

There are a lot of angry bloggers out there. I’ve done some angry blogging. In the past, I’ve done some angry preaching. Any pastor worth his salt knows what I’m talking about.

It’s easy to go online and rant on about “what’s wrong with the church” and “what’s wrong with _________ denomination” or “what’s wrong with church people” and “this is why I left the church.”

I don’t want to be that guy.

However, I read a lot of blogs where people give very valid reasons for not wanting to be a member of the American church. Heck, I don’t blame them, and I used to pastor one.

I do, however, want to preface my remarks with this – I love the church. She is the bride of Christ. In her glory and wonder, she is to be beheld in her beauty. She is to present herself to Him without blemish or mark. She is there to worship Him in spirit and truth.

She should place preaching as the center of worship and be a church local and universal – people who are gathered together, unified to love the Savior with all their hearts, souls, minds and strength.

Christ during His earthly ministry used the vehicle of the synagogue to preach and teach from. He did not reject the organized religious system outright, but established a church to honor and worship Him.

There’s plenty of labels out there for people to be branded with, like it or not. Some people say, “I’m not of any denomination or label, I’m just a Christian.” Right. Just open your mouth and let everyone know what you believe and you’ll have a label soon enough.

I’m not emergent by any means. In fact, before my fall, I used to think they were awful. After my fall, and after following many of them on Twitter, I like them. I don’t agree with a lot of them, but I see where they’re coming from. I sense their frustration and see why they’re doing what they’re doing. It’s frustration with church as it is and a desire to move forward, always seeking, always trying to do what they feel is best.

I know this frustration as well. It’s a conversation that happens every day between pastors and between conservative seminary students. Do we abandon the church and start new ones or do we reform the ones we already have?

I think the core of the problem is deep. And it’s within us. It’s within every church in America. Well, most of them.

And it’s not because of the church building, mind you. It’s us. The members. The dysfunctional family.

I’ve heard different numbers tossed around by pastors since I can remember. Some pastors think that only 25% of the people in the pews are saved. Some are more optimistic and say 50%. If you ever get the gumption, ask you pastor how many people he thinks in your church are saved – by percent.

I don’t even think it’s a matter of who is saved in the church and who is not. I’d venture to guess that most of the people in the pews are saved, probably.

It’s my conviction that we’ve become churches filled with Pharisees. I know this because I used to be one. And I still have a streak of Pharisaical attitude in me that I have to beat down with a ten-meter cattle prod at times.

Before I get on with the series, I’ll tell you what got me thinking about it. I was exposed by a former church member at Angel Falls well before my fall. It’s a story that I take no pride in.

I had a deacon once who left the church. He was a nominal deacon; meaning that he showed up to the meetings, never really took much to visiting, voted like everyone else, and was getting up in years. Once in a while he had an opinion, but he kept to himself.

One Sunday, he announced his resignation to the deacon body. All the deacons begged him to stay but he just said “it’s time I move on to another church.” We were a little shocked. He left that Sunday and began to attend another local church down the road.

I always knew he never really liked me. We talked face to face in a cordial manner, but he never really “took” to me. He had never said anything harsh to me, but there was an abrasive way about him.

I asked Phillip Townsend, chairman of deacons to go talk to him. He did, but he didn’t say anything to Phillip.  So I called this deacon.

After five minutes on the phone, he finally said what he wanted to say, “Arthur, you’re a Pharisee. You’re a hypocrite. You say one thing and then you do something else.”

Contrary to my attitude, I actually listened to him instead of defending myself. Typically, I would have shot off at the mouth and retaliated, but I asked him to explain. I was actually humble for once.

He referenced Leonard, the deacon who had been urged to leave the church after refusing to give to the cooperative program. He said he thought I should have stuck up for Leonard instead of help drive him out. He thought it was a double standard on my part and it made him sick.

For those of you who don’t want to click the “Leonard” link, here’s long story short: Leonard was a deacon who didn’t want to give to the cooperative program. Church members were angry. Some left the church over it. I took hits over it for a long time. Leonard’s wife went a little over the edge one night, Leonard got very personal with me, and I finally asked him to leave. Of course, this deacon knew none of these details.

This deacon thought I should have done everything in my power to help Leonard. He was probably right. I had acted like a Pharisee.

Even though this deacon wasn’t privy to any of the inside information, I hadn’t acted Christ-like in my decision. I wasn’t long-suffering, but I made a decision that was based on my and the church’s comfort.

I wasn’t spiritually strong at the time. I had just lost my mother. Was that an excuse? I don’t know. But I do know I didn’t stand for Leonard. I didn’t love him and carry him through like a Christian should. Christ would have.

Was it a difficult time and a horrible time that any pastor could have faced? Yes.

I’m not beating myself up for it anymore. However, it was the first time in my life that someone showed me that I was, in fact, more like a Pharisee than Christ.

I wasn’t going out and helping hurting people. I was on the side of the establishment. I was looking out for the herd mentality.

And I’m afraid that’s what’s happening in the majority of our churches today. We’re a bunch of Pharisees and we don’t know it.

We think we’re the group that Christ was blessing. But instead we’re the group Christ was warning.

Why Churches Aren’t Growing: Transparency And The Fallen Church

So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. (Matthew 5:23-24 ESV)
I write a lot about reconciliation and forgiveness. There are several reasons for this.
First, I was horrible at it before I fell. I was an awful example to my family, my friends, and my congregation. I now know what it’s like to be the one who desperately wants to be reconciled with people I have harmed.
Secondly, one of my reasons for blogging is that I want to see churches and fallen pastors reconcile. Some churches actually handle the process the right way. They approach the pastor when they discover his indiscretion, they help he and his family get help as they depart and stay in contact with him.
However, this is a rarity. Most churches harbor bitterness, anger, and never get over the event. I do not believe this is the will of Christ. As the verse above states (and many others), those who have been sinned against should be the initiators of reconciliation and forgiveness. As I have stated before, this does not mean letting the minister back to a place of authority necessarily, but it does mean love and forgiveness.
There are a lot of verses about forgiveness. Some put the onus on the one who sinned. But the verse above and others put the responsibility on the one who was sinned against. 
In the Southern Baptist Convention, there are literally hundreds of churches that have been hurt by fallen pastors. These churches have not made amends or reconciled with these pastors.
Do not hear me placing full blame on these churches. If you’ve read my previous posts on the matter, you will know that is not how I feel. These men fell and sinned. Sometimes, they get pompous after their fall and immediately try to return to ministry. They become recalcitrant and egotistical. I understand that.
However, there is a responsibility for churches to reconcile with fallen pastors.

The majority of our Southern Baptist churches are not growing. There are many reasons for this. Could I suggest that one of the many reasons for it is that we have a lot of junk in our souls that needs to be cleansed?
I know of one local church whose pastor left forty years ago on bad terms. He didn’t even sin morally. It was just a bad situation where he got into an argument with a deacon and his family who “ran the church.” Ever since that time, the church has replaced the pastor every three years like clockwork. The family who was “in charge” is still there running the show.
When you ask an outsider what is going on at that church they always point back at the event that happened forty years ago. That’s a shame.
That makes me concerned about churches all across the nation. It makes me concerned about the church where I fell, and it is my fault. It makes me concerned about the churches where other pastors fell who haven’t taken the time to heal or reconcile with the pastor.
Two things are happening in churches like that. First, a dynamic of distrust can set in where congregations will always have a weary eye of the pastor. And secondly, if the people never forgive, there is the constant sin of unforgiveness in the midst that will hinder worship, growth, and spiritual awareness.
I had a funny thought about evangelism as well. Would churches effected by a fall be less likely to evangelize? Would they be less likely to invite people in knowing that they might have potential sins to deal with?
Since I fell, I’ve been called a lot of things. Since I consider this a “family friendly” blog, I won’t mention the not so nice ones.
However, the one thing I’ve been called most often on this blog is “transparent.” I consider that a compliment, even though I’m hiding behind a pseudonym.
In our Southern Baptist churches, we do a superb job of putting on a “happy face” each Sunday. We sit up straight, sing when we’re cued to, and shake hands.  
If you have kids though, you know that the ride to church is completely different. “Don’t hit your sister! Be quiet back there! You’d better stop complaining about going to church! Don’t act up during the sermon this week!”
And each Sunday during Sunday School a topic will come up and we’ll shake our heads at the sinful topic brought up. Lust? “We shouldn’t do that, but you know everyone struggles once in a while.” Greed? “That’s a terrible thing, we should store up our treasures in heaven.” Anger? “Well, righteous anger is fine, but Jesus said love your neighbor.”
What if we were transparent during Sunday School? Lust? “Yes, I fight it daily, friends. Each day I struggle. Will you please pray for me?” Greed? “I’ve run three credit cards past their limit and it’s out of control.” Anger? “Me and my wife are having problems. I need help from someone. Can anyone here help me?”
What about during the week? What if we acted at church like we did at work? What if the pastor walked in on us at our most sinful moment? What if people saw us worried about our finances, fighting with our spouses, angry with our co-workers, cussing at the mechanic who messed up our car, kicking the cat, etc.?
If we acted at church like we did during the week – now that would be transparent. To have people see us as we really are – broken, sinful, wrecked, miserable, depressed. Because under those Baptist smiles are broken, sinful people who really need help.
When I was a pastor and would go to my bi-vocational job, people would cuss in front of me without knowing I was a pastor. When they found out, they’d say, “I’m sorry, I didn’t know you were a preacher.”
I’d say, “Why are you sorry to me? You didn’t do anything to me. Be yourself.”
Why don’t we act around our church friends like we do around our weekday friends? Because we’re hypocrites. We’re not transparent.
But guess what? God sees right through us. And yet, He loves us still. He shows us grace and mercy.
But, if one of us sees a church member sin or a church leader fall, we judge them harshly. And quickly. And we gossip. No grace. No mercy. Only judgment.
Know why we’re in decline? Because most of us (and I’m including myself in this) don’t look a thing like Christ and His grace when it comes to dealing with one another, much less non-Christians.
We haven’t forgiven those who have sinned against us. We harbor anger, bitterness and rage when long ago we should have reached out and shown mercy as Christ has shown to us.
But strangely enough, each of us will pile into our cars on Sunday, looking our best, put on our Baptist smiles and push down our troubles.
It doesn’t have to be that way. If we were all transparent, if we left our Baptist smiles at the door, shared our hurts with one another, reconciled our pasts, then looked out into our community and realized that we’re just like everyone else, we might just be fueled for evangelism.

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.
(Matthew 6:1 ESV)

Sunday School Today

I’ve been asked to fill in today for one of the adult Sunday School classes.

Before anyone freaks out, the deacons and several of the hierarchy at the church where Cynthia and I are attending know of our situation. They know my story and we’re under good watchcare.

Anyway, I’ve filled in before in Sunday School and it was a good experience for me. I loved teaching and sharing with the class. I was a new man and a new teacher. I had new experiences to share.

The regular teacher handed me the book last week and said he’d be out of town. I said, “No problem.” I sat back in the folding chair next to Cynthia and casually opened the Lifeway book to next week’s lesson. Of course, it was on adultery.

My pastor was standing right there when I saw it. He said, “Nothing says you have to teach on that next week. Feel free to change the lesson to whatever you want.”

Cynthia looked at me and nodded.

But in that moment, I thought, “You know what? It’s scripture. It’s not time to shrink from the absolute truth. I’ll teach it. Adultery is wrong. And this class needs to hear it.”

Pray for me.

But I’ll also tell you that I’ll interject my ideas on what needs to be done with the adulterer. That’s not in the Lifeway curriculum. They only seem to deal with the sin, not the sinner.

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