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graceGRACE. It’s my favorite word. As a matter of fact, I named my first-born child Grace. I often tell her how special her name is. I know she gets tired of hearing it (or maybe she secretly loves it), but I point out every song, sermon, or movie that mentions the word “grace.”

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I recently became the Executive Director of ExPastors.com. We have a mission statement that reads as follows: We seek to be a place of help, healing, and hope for ex-pastors, pastors, and church leaders. We do this by hearing their stories, connecting them with people and resources, and focusing on spiritual, physical, mental and emotional health.

When Tullian Tchividjian reached out to us and I talked with him on the phone, I heard a man that had committed a sin (a serious sin before God and that is a hot-button for many people). I heard a man that had experienced brokenness, shame, loneliness, deep and dark sadness, and regret over what he had done to his family, and how he let his church and followers down.

As a matter of fact, Tullian was in such a dark place of sadness, regret, loneliness, anger, and frustration that he set out to take his life. He even wrote a suicide note that he shared in the piece we published. You can read it here.

Why did we share his piece? I shared today on ExPastors.com, we didn’t share it because he had “arrived,” or we thought he was “fully restored,” or that we believed he was “ready to re-enter ministry.” We don’t know any of that – that’s between him and God. He did, however, address those questions and accusations with RNS in this piece. A while back, when writing about Tullian, Charisma News wrote the following:

“Weak areas such as drugs, alcohol, pain meds, sex, anger, marriage issues, and so on are ‘opportune times’ for the enemy to strike. We must expose these areas through repentance, and install safeguards and accountability.”

I agree. Friends, I’ve been in ministry for over two decades and I know and have experienced the attacks, traps, temptations, and lies of the enemy. I urge you to pray for pastors around the world. And I challenge you to sincerely pray for pastors who have fallen (like Tullian), been fired for addiction (like Perry Noble), and burned out (like Pete Wilson).

We, as a ministry, and myself personally, took a ton of heat, bullets, and accusations by many upset and angry people. Did they have a right to be upset and angry? I don’t know. I just know that when it comes to truth and grace, I always lean towards grace. A therapist, professor and author that I respect said the same thing. Only Jesus perfectly embodies truth and grace equally. He is 100% truth and 100% grace. We all lean one way or the other.

On Wednesday night, after we and I took a beating on our website and on social media, I looked my daughter Grace in the eyes, with tears in my eyes and said, “You know how special your name is to me, right?” She said, “Yes.” I told her about the personal attacks I had received for showing Tullian grace. And I reminded her:

“Grace is unmerited favor. You can’t earn grace (thank God). We don’t receive grace because we’re perfect, deserve it, or have it all together. Grace is freely offered by God to us and we should freely offer it to others.”

Tullian’s grandfather, Billy Graham, wrote about grace and the unmerited favor of God here. I encourage you to read it. You can read more about what we, at ExPastors, believe and are about here.

So, Thursday after being emotionally drained and exhausted from the constant attacks on our website, social media, and people that targetted me personally and questioned my integrity, I went to see my therapist for our weekly appointment. Yes, I see a counselor. Yes, I believe strongly in therapy. And I’ve writen and spoke out about it frequently. I think every pastor should see a therapist. One of the lies and traps of the enemy is isolation. If you feel alone and have no one to talk to, you will fall (or take your life), and be another statistic.

So, last week I met with my therapist. He said, “What would you like to talk about today?” I said, “I have a lot to talk about, express, get off my chest, and get some counsel on.” So, I told him about my week and the reason we published Tullian’s piece. I told him that many pastors commit suicide each year. In an article by Charisma News, they wrote: “It’s this thought process that could have caused both Seth Oiler and Isaac Hunter to take their own lives after being caught in affairs.” God help us!

My therapist told me of another local therapist that used to be a Lutheran minister. He said this former minister is now a practicing counselor, who’s whole practice is dedicated to helping former pastors. Believe me, I will be reaching out to this counselor and getting to know him.

I told my therapist (and this is the God’s honest truth) that when I woke up Wednesday morning (after we posted Tullian’s piece on Tuesday), the first thought in mind before I even sat up and put my feet on the ground was:

JUST ONE. Yes, we took a lot of heat and bullets for posting the article, but if just one pastor read Tullian’s story of deep, dark depression that led him to consider taking his own life. If just one pastor decided to not take his life and seek help so they can keep on living – it was worth it all. 

My therapist encouraged me by reminding me of the “Starfish story.” You’ve probably heard it. Ever heard of the man walking along the beach and picking up starfish and throwing them back into the water so they wouldn’t die? Someone mocked him because there was no way he could make a difference and save every starfish. The man picked up a starfish, threw it in the water and said something like, “It made a difference to that one.”

Read my article on ExPastors.com entitled, “It’s Okay to Not Be Okay. This is a Safe Place.” In the article I write, “We reach all kinds of pastors and ex-pastors: broken, hurt, wounded, mad, angry at God, angry at the Church, confused, on the verge of suicide (like Tullian Tchividjian shared), in transition, now in lay leadership, pastors who have burned out and are ready to quit, pastors who have resigned and now work a job outside the local church, pastors who were fired, pastors who were laid off due to finances or circumstances out of their control – all kinds of pastors and church leaders.

As my friend Pete Wilson once said, “It’s okay not to be okay.” And I would add, “This is a safe place. All are welcome here. Whether you like us or not, trust us or not, love us or hate us, agree with us or not, or are just checking us out – we welcome you.

And like it or not, Tullian is the very definition of an ex-pastor. For every mega-church pastor, author and/or conference speaker that finds themselves in a similar situation, there are hundreds or thousands of ex-pastors and struggling pastors that are hurting and/or burned out – they just pastor smaller churches and don’t have the platform that Tullian has. And to you, my friend, I also say, “This is a safe place.””

So, if you stumbled across this blog post and God has stirred something in your soul. If you’re a current or ex-pastor, we’d love to hear from you. Submit your story to us. It doesn’t matter if you pastor a church of 10 people, 100, or a 1000. We’re in this together and we hope to create a community where people can help one another get through tough seasons of ministry and life. If you’re at the end of your rope and need of help, contact us. We want to connect you with resources and other pastors.

Browse the site. Read through our articles. Maybe you’ll find something helpful and timely. Check out our Resources page and if you have a recommended resource, email us. Check the site often. Subscribe to our newsletter to get weekly email updates and subscribe to our YouTube channel to keep up with video content, including our new podcast (coming soon). FYI – When you subscribe to the ExPastors.com newsletter, you’ll receive a free copy of our Founder, Bo Lane’s best-selling book Why Pastors Quit.

Let’s be people known for and characterized by GRACE. That’s my story and my personal mission. I’m a grace dealer and I’m going to keep on dishing it out. God bless you pastors as you serve the Church. Keep pressing on. Don’t give up! You’re not alone.

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Where to begin? For the past year, I’ve been speaking, writing, consulting and serving as the Editor of Christian Media Magazine. But as many of you know, my heart is in the local church. In a way that can only be described as a God-thing, God brought me and Pastor Derwin Gray together to talk. I found out they had been praying for a Campus Pastor for their Rock Hill campus and you know I had previously served as a Campus Pastor at a multisite church. I, too, had been praying for a Campus Pastor position. God got us connected and the rest is history.

What you may not know is that Transformation Church is located in my home state of South Carolina, where I grew up and spent the first 24 years of my life. The church is located near the South Carolina/North Carolina line and is considered a suburb of Charlotte, NC. If you looked at a map of where my family and I are moving to, you would see it’s right in the middle of both my wife’s and my families. My wife has sisters in North Carolina. My entire family is in South Carolina and my wife’s parents live in Georgia. This is truly a homecoming and we praise God!

Now let me tell you about why I’m pumped to be a part of the team at Transformation Church. You may not know it, but I’m very picky and waited on God to lead us to the right fit. Here’s the scoop on TC from their website:

Derwin L. Gray is the founding and lead Pastor of Transformation Church, a multi-ethnic, multi-generational, mission-shaped community with two campuses in South Carolina (Indian Land and Rock Hill), both just south of Charlotte, North Carolina. Transformation Church (TC) was recognized as the 2nd fastest-growing church by percentage in America for 2010 by Outreach magazine. In 2011 and 2012, TC was again recognized again as one of the top 100 fastest-growing churches in America.

TheGrayFam

You may be thinking, “I’ve heard of Derwin Gray.” Maybe you’ve seen the Evangelism Linebacker video? Derwin played in the NFL, where he met Christ. Derwin is also a best-selling author, speaker and champion for diversity and multi-ethnic ministry (which is what his next book is about). If you want to hear some more of his heart and story, listen to THIS message he preached a month ago for Rick Warren at Saddleback.

Greg and Thomas

 

Why am I passionate about this opportunity? Because it’s a chance to be a part of a God-movement and serve a multi-ethnic church that values diversity. My best friend (Thomas Rose – seen above) for 21 years is black and we have done a lot over the years to try to break down racial walls. When I worshiped at Transformation Church recently, I was moved to tears at both campuses to see the mix of people and races worshiping together. It truly was something to see and I praise God that I will see this regularly soon. I also pray I will never take it for granted as this is not the norm. 90% of churches in America are segregated on Sunday morning. Let’s do something about that! I wrote about this years ago HERE.

To see what the music is like at Transformation Church, watch THIS. To see an amazing day of baptisms and see what God is up to, watch THIS.

What’s next? First, I praise God for how He orchestrated this whole thing. It truly was a God-thing and a story that I’ll share in the future. Also pray for my family and me as we move, sell our house, find a new home, my kids change schools and I start my new role as Campus Pastor at the TC Rock Hill Campus. Pray that God would have His hand on my ministry and we would see many changed lives and much fruit. Pray for my kids as they move and make new friends. Now that you heard what God is doing in the Carolinas through Transformation Church, please pray for Pastor Derwin and the amazing staff that I will be joining. Pray we make much of Jesus. It’s all for His glory and His renown.

I’ll be blogging more in the future about my beginning a new role and settling in. God bless you guys and gals. I thank God!

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Hey friends. I wrote this blog post yesterday. Today and for the rest of the week, I’ll be at a spiritual retreat center totally unplugging. They don’t have internet or cell phone service. It’s just me, God, my Bible and my prayer journal. Please pray that God would speak clearly to me. Thanks!

 

*** Also Happy Birthday to my son, Tommy, who turns 12 today. It’s been amazing to see God work in your life over the past two years. I’m so glad we had a wonderful day of celebration  yesterday. You’re a great young man and I’m proud of you.

My kids first day of school Aug 2014

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Many of you know I’m from South Carolina. Today, I fly back (with my daughter Grace) to speak at a worship conference there. The good news is that I’ll get to spend some time with my family, in addition to speaking at the conference Thursday and Friday.

If you’re going to be at the Christian Supply Conference this week, contact me and let me know. Also, come by my workshops. I’ll be teaching on Church Leadership Essentials and my new book Strange Leadership. See you next week!

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I returned home Friday night after my son graduated from his month-long treatment program at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City. I packed another bag and headed out early Saturday morning to Amarillo, Texas to consult with a church on Sunday and do a secret shopper visit (I still do those and am booking for the summer. Click here for more details).

I’m home today doing laundry and packing a new suitcase. I leave tomorrow to go to Chicago for the week to speak at the Moody Bible Pastors Conference. This will be my 8th time speaking at Moody! If you’re going to be there, stop by my class and say hello. You can also get my books signed. I look forward to meeting you.

I should return to a semi-normal life next week for the first time in 5 weeks. Thank you for your prayers.

Cincinnati pic

Today my family and I head to Cincinnati to hang out with my wife’s family for a few days. This will be a time of food, fun (catching a Reds baseball game) and relaxation. I plan on reading a couple of books on the drive there and back. I also plan to visit Crossroads Church this Sunday. I hear great things about them and love visiting other churches. Something tells me chili is in my future, too! I hope you have a great weekend, too.

Great advice, counsel and words of wisdom from my friend, Scott Williams. Please watch this and reflect on it. It can be revolutionary to your life and family.

Sister church in Haiti

Today I leave to lead a mission team from my campus to Haiti. We’re taking 8 men from my church to minister with an orphanage, school and to help do construction on our sister church that we support. I’ll be preaching the gospel there on Sunday. Pray for us!

Today, my worship pastor (Matt Rector) and I are in Dallas for the next few days for the ECHO Conference. I’ve spoke at and attended ECHO for several years and always look forward to what they offer. If you’ve never checked out the ECHO Conference or ECHO HUB, I encourage you to check them out. Plan on attending ECHO next year and start using the resources of ECHO HUB right now.

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Visit CatalystConference.com

Join us for the Catalyst Conference (www.catalystconference.comOctober 3-5, 2012 in Atlanta, GA, where 13,000 young leaders will converge for the leadership experience of the year, including high-octane speakers, powerful worship, innovative programming, and a leadership experience unlike any other.

Hear from leadership authorities including Andy StanleyPatrick Lencioni, Francis Chan, David Platt, Christine Caine, Craig Groeschel, Perry Noble and Matt Chandler, along with several innovative thinkers and practitioners like Emmy award winning executive producer of Survivor Mark Burnett, Harlem Children’s Zone founder and TIME 2011 Most Influential People list Geoffrey Canada, Equal Justice Initiative founder Bryan Stevenson, musician Israel Houghton, uber blogger and best-selling author Jon Acuff, , and best-selling authors and TED Talks sensations Susan Cain and Simon Sinek.

Plus, Catalyst Labs will feature innovative thought leaders like Reggie Joiner, Michael Hyatt, Mark Batterson, Tim Elmore, Lysa Terkeurst, David Platt, Carlos Whittaker, Eugene Cho, Bob Goff, Lynne Hybels, Tullian Tchividjian, Jen Hatmaker, Jon Acuff, and others. 

special registration rate of $199 is being made available to you (over $120 savings). To take advantage of this Exclusive offer, call 888.334.6569 to speak with the Catalyst Concierge team, or register at www.catalystconference.com and use RATE CODE FOB.

This rate expires on Thursday, June 28th (TODAY), so make sure and register early.