A Consequence of a Slow Fade
by Aaron Babyar
Charlie* used to be a Youth Pastor, overseeing a ministry with hundreds of teens in regular attendance. At one point though, he dramatically failed at maintaining personal holiness. Since then, he has sought the forgiveness of many. He has also done extensive individual and marital counseling.
Though he is no longer an employee of a church, Charlie is now a volunteer that serves passionately while pouring into the lives of other men and business leaders at the church his family now attends. Additionally, he is active in a vibrant "Celebrate Recovery" group.
His lack of personal holiness contributed to Charlie experiencing a publicly discussed moral failure. It broke the hearts of many. I remember seeing it on the news, and having people ask me about it for months afterwards.
When we met up for lunch earlier this week, Charlie shared with me about some of the past events in his life that had led up to and surrounding that horrible time in his life. Here is a partial summary of his poignant words: "I wasn't doing well in seeking God on my own. I was dry spiritually. Then, my wife got sick, and that led to a loss of some intimacy in our marriage. That made me mad at her. That made me mad at God. That led to a further dryness and a loss of intimacy in my relationship with God. That led me to searching for some sort of physical intimacy via personal ads on Craigslist. That led to my arrest for soliciting a prostitute."
Zoom in on the first part of what he said. Notice that the eventual public moral failure was shocking, yet it was only the end of what had been a long process. Of course there is more to this story, but the beginning is the most important part. It first started with Charlie no longer seeking God on his own, and that primary relationship lacking intimacy. What happened to him could happen on some level to almost any leader.
Bible study. Prayer. Listening to the Lord. These are things that leaders need to practice particularly when it's not just for a sermon. These are disciplines that for the most part faded away in Charlie's personal life. In fact, Charlie mentioned to me that he very strongly resonates with Casting Crowns song "Slow Fade."
I think Charlie is a great guy. I don't believe he is permanently sidelined from ministry. But he is someone who has experienced significant consequences from not maintaining a personal holiness within an intimate relationship with Christ.
As ministry leaders, we need to be mindful that we will not be leading anything for long, if we cannot first maintain our personal intimacy with our Holy creator. His kingdom will advance, with or without you. It's a high and holy calling to be in vocational or volunteer ministry. But your intimacy with Him will not exist, without your regular commitment to seek Him.
*actual name changed for this article