We live on the cusp of what potentially could be the greatest revival ever known in the history of mankind. However, statistics indicate that attendance and finances are at a modern-day low in the church.
Humanity is crying out for authenticity in ministry. The problem is that many ministers seeking guidance simply do not trust Christians. They find themselves in the midst of a unique paradox.
They serve a very real God whose Son suffered the supreme sacrifice to redeem mankind. The price has been paid, and God has raised up imperfect men to bring in His harvest. Nevertheless, many believe that salvation and one’s calling both depend on one’s performance and not on the cross.
Within the ministerial ranks resides tremendous frustration. Statistics from the Barna Group reveal that 1,500 ministers leave the ministry each month, never to return. These are individuals whom God has called. He knew their inadequacies when He called them.
A Barna Group study found that 38 percent of those in the ministry have committed adultery, and 77 percent admit to having a failing marriage. According to Dr. Ted Roberts’ Pure Desire Ministries, as many as 74 percent are addicted to Internet pornography. Most leave the ministry because of moral failure or deep frustration.
Why have so many simply thrown in the towel? What is going wrong?
People fashion an image that no human is able to imitate. They can’t live up to the common perception that a servant of Christ must be a spiritual superman.
They may say, “My colleagues all appear to live above the fray. It must be me.” The lack of candidness keeps them from the very things they need—authenticity and deliverance.
As the adversary lies in wait, disillusionment signals him to prepare his trap of isolation. God’s man now gives in to the deception and becomes a master at covering his sin—or so he thinks.
He has seen how others have been treated when their faults were exposed. Rather than facing the public disgrace and allowing God to do an emancipating work when personal sin is unearthed, many today protect themselves via the avenue of “lawyering up.” Though this flawed methodology may save a career, it also ensures that this individual will suffer in his personal sin indefinitely.
The first step in attaining true liberty is to find a safe place to simply “confess.” Many who have attempted to do so in the past have met an ill fate. They have confided in someone whom they felt they could trust. All too often, the individual to whom they have disclosed their deepest sin has responded with exposure and wrath.
This means of dispensing judgment for sinful conduct gained its media precedent with both the Jimmy Swaggart and the Jim Bakker scandals. Rather than choosing to be redemptive, society chose to inflict shame and degradation. Along with the media, the enemy used those incidents to attempt to drive the nail into the church’s coffin.
God’s intention is that the church is perceived as a place for flawed humanity to run to and find His mercy. Instead, the world perceives the church as a hate group.
How can this potentially fatal error be corrected? Can a minister get back on track when he has done the unthinkable?
Helping Pastors Heal
This is where the ministry of Heal Your Servant (HYS) comes in. Part of the ministry’s purpose is to provide the first step on the path of liberation for anyone who desires it.
Heal Your Servant offers four confidential call-in sessions per week. God’s servants can anonymously contact us and be absolutely honest regarding their sin. It offers them a pathway for complete deliverance.
Every step is completely confidential. When a pastor does call in, he is offered a grace-filled plan of restoration that includes his spouse and congregation.
The staff of HYS has heard stories of individuals who struggle with pornography, lust, adultery, same-sex attraction, divorce and an array of other issues. It has received calls from bishops, pastors, evangelists, worship leaders, missionaries, youth pastors, children’s leaders and even a church custodian.
In the last year, HYS has been bombarded with a litany of phone calls, emails and letters from more than 1,700 ministers in 722 cities in 69 nations. More than 1,300 have come from the United States. Most are broken, angry with themselves, and humiliated and don’t know where to turn.
Heal Your Servant has become a shelter from the storm of judgment, says therapist and author Dr. Fred Antonelli.
“Life can be challenging and even downright emotionally devastating at times,” Antonelli says. “Heal Your Servant is a compassionate, agape-centered ministry geared to the weak, beat-up, wounded and painfully burdened people [who] are shuffling along on feet of clay. HYS is a safe place to land.”
Stephen Arterburn, author of the best-seller, “Every Man’s Battle,” agrees.
“Heal Your Servant is an amazing ministry of hope in the storm and help in the struggle,” he said. “If you are struggling in ministry and need to talk to someone who can understand, call today.”
Below is a sample of some of the testimonies HYS has received:
Pastor Mike says: “I have pastored for 15 years. I had never before been unfaithful to my wife. The pressures of ministry had placed a great division between my wife and me. We were both so busy with God's work that we neglected each other.
“I met a woman online. This relationship had developed slowly, and we had made the decision to meet in the Caribbean for the sole purpose of consummating our adulterous affair. I told my wife I was going on a ministry trip.
“I called in to Heal Your Servant several times, and I just talked. I didn’t call them back for two weeks. When I finally called again I was asked what was going on.
“My response was, ‘Well, I did go to the Caribbean, but instead of taking the other woman, I took my wife. I told her everything.
“She then admitted to me she had been in an emotional relationship with another man. We asked for each other’s forgiveness, forgave each other and then had an amazing honeymoon in the Caribbean. Thank you so much for saving my marriage and ministry.’”
Another individual called the ministry because he had been in a three-year affair with a woman in the church. He was tired of hiding it and simply wanted it out in the open. He had developed a love for the woman and contemplated leaving his wife, his children and the church in order to live out his life with the other woman.
He was confused. He admitted that his heart was in missions, and he had felt pressured into pastoring.
His wife had suspected the affair and was an emotional wreck. After a time of counseling, prayer and deliverance, she forgave him, and they decided to press on. He eventually forgave himself and once again felt worthy of his family.
The elders of the church worked very closely with HYS through the entire ordeal. When he completed the process, the elders met with the congregation and invited him back as pastor. He humbly declined the offer and eventually accepted a position as the head of a missions organization.
These are only two of the many stories of marriages being mended and ministries being restored through HYS.
Returning Leaders to Their Callings
Another purpose of the ministry is to seek out the 1,500 leaders who leave the ministry every month and bring them back to the place God has called them to be. If there is to be a great harvest, every laborer is needed.
The staff at HYS encourages people to let them know who these ministers are and where to find them. Pastor Kris shared his testimony:
“I don’t know how you found me. I pastored a wonderful church for 10 years. It was Camelot, but then the devil hit hard and strong and took out my marriage. And when I reached out for help, everyone—I mean everyone—turned their back on me and kicked me to the side of the road and left me for dead. It was the most devastating experience a human being could go through.
“My wife left me and took our four children. I resigned from my pastoring because I was too devastated to lead my congregation, even though I loved them with all my heart. When I went to minister-friends I thought I could trust and poured my heart out to them, they all walked away because they didn’t want to be associated with someone who was having a ‘failure experience’ because it might tint their ‘success’ appearance.
“I went into a spiral of depression and total shock to the point of attempt[ing] suicide twice, and there was no one there. It was and is amazing to me that as ministers, we are on the front lines of battle. Yet when the enemy is able to hit us and wound us, our ‘fellow soldiers,’ instead of reaching out to help us in our wounded condition, turn instead and aim their weapons at us and seemingly ‘finish the job.’ I was amazed that the devil wounded me, but it was my brothers in Christ [who] finished me off.
“It is interesting that there is an organization that is reaching out to our wounded veterans coming home from war named ‘Wounded Warriors,’ yet we don’t do anything for our wounded warriors [in the church]. They [the veterans] tell the stories of how they were hit with a roadside bomb and it blew their legs or arms off. I have sat with tears down my face saying to myself, ‘I know what that is like, only my wounds were unseen, but just as painful and life changing.’ God bless your ministry.”
Why does HYS seek out these wounded pastors? The ministry has chosen to be obedient in recognizing and honoring a precious calling.
“Heal Your Servant exists to encourage the fallen leader,” says best-selling author Max Lucado. “They step in when others have stepped back.”
God Uses Imperfect People
“The gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” (Rom. 11:29). We all understand that the specificity of this text refers to Israel. It also refers to the nature and character of God.
He is not frivolous regarding whom He calls. He places a holy calling on unholy individuals. The cross and His grace are the only things that brand us as His own.
He knows the human frailties of those called into ministry. He knows their imperfections. He also knows that greed, lust and envy will pervade their very beings.
My dear friend Ruth Graham (daughter of Billy Graham) brings home the truth that God has a history of calling and using flawed individuals to do His work:
“What would the biblical history be without Abraham? King David? Peter?
“What if God had disqualified them for service because of their failures? It would be a sad, thin narrative indeed. God in His mercy and grace included rascals in the biblical story to encourage us because we are all fallen and flawed. And in His grace He fits us for service.
“God loves to redeem the broken. He creates order out of chaos—He began that in Genesis and still does. He doesn’t stop at ruins; that’s where He begins. That is why Heal Your Servant is a ministry whose time has come. The church must be a model of the nature of God!”
It is true; many of the great leaders of the church through the ages have been associated with some sort of scandal. This does not disqualify them. In many cases, God uses their encounter along with His mercy and grace to refine them.
Called to Restoration
If we truly are “the body” of Christ and parts of our body are wounded, it’s imperative that we rush to protect and heal those parts that are sickly. It is our responsibility to get them healed.
Galatians 6:1-3 gives us a very clear perspective on how to distinguish those who are truly God’s servants in such a time: “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.”
This Scripture very clearly indicates how God’s man will instinctively respond. The most spiritual among us will be those who run to restore.
Jesus dealt with this same issue when confronting the woman caught in adultery. He exchanged our concept of “accountability to” for that of His concept of “accountability for.” He took personal responsibility for the woman. And after driving away the accusers, He spoke words of forgiveness and healing.
“Falling in a moral pit or getting stuck in a slew of despondency is just one of the realities of living in a fallen world,” says Randy Frazee, senior minister of Oak Hills Church in San Antonio, Texas.
“Here’s good news—you don’t have to stay there. Heal Your Servant offers a safe, grace-filled, confidential way to experience freedom again.”
Those who have truly tasted the mercy and grace of God are always the first to run to the aid of a fallen comrade. For those who have a tendency to judge and condemn another man’s sin, I have one simple question: “If your most fatal flaw were made public, would you still be allowed in ministry?”
It’s something to think about.
David Vigil is CEO and founder of Heal Your Servant. His life focus is to serve those who have been called of God and see to it that they are free to be exactly what they have been designed to be.