WHY A MINISTER FALLS
By W. G. Guy
The following is a tragic real-life account of a man who once served God and proclaimed the gospel message of salvation around the world. I know this story personally since we worked together on evangelist campaigns and missionary trips around the world during the 1970’s and 80’s. His name will not be used due to the nature of his failure and fall from the ministry. The purpose of this story is to identify why such things happen to those in the ministry as it has been repeated over and over again, even by some very well-known ministers.
This man came to Christ and had a marvelous life-changing experience. He was full of zeal and became very active in his church. He had a flamboyant personality which showed in how diligent he was in sharing the gospel of Christ. I assisted him at times in his studies at a seminary that he attended as an extension student. He loved to preach and sought every opportunity to do so.
He supported himself by advertising sales with one of the largest radio stations in central Florida. Since he was a good promoter, he joined the team of a large local church that developed a traveling music ministry. He traveled the US booking engagements for concerts. Almost weekly he would call me while I was pastoring a church in Minnesota and he would report on his experiences and things he discovered about various churches as he traveled. In particular he reported on ministers who had fallen into sin and reproach which troubled him. It appeared he needed someone to talk to about these matters and I was that person. During his tours I had him come to conduct a week long evangelist crusade at my church and teach my congregation how to witness and evangelize.
After I returned to Florida, we worked together as organizers of the Here’s Life Florida crusade developed by the late Dr. Bill Bright. We also traveled together to foreign countries conducting crusades where he was the evangelist holding nightly meetings and I was the teacher conducting daytime seminars for ministers and their staff. We were a very successful team.
In the 1990’s our efforts went in different directions and he began a daily radio talk show that became the biggest and best known talk show in central Florida. He even got his own weekly TV show on a local Christian TV station. He had me on a guest on one show as a result of my monthly publications in which one topic really caught his eye and which he wanted to promote. While he was doing his media work I joined the staff of a local seminary where I taught and administered as an Assistant Dean and Director of Foreign Outreach. He and I had little contact during this time as he was very busy with his radio program which continued to expand.
Unfortunately things took a wrong turn for him after a few years of great radio success and I did not hear any more from him until he ended up in serious trouble. He and his wife came to my house for a visit as he needed to talk and wanted help. I couldn’t believe what happened and the snare he fell into and in which he continued to dig himself deeper and deeper instead of finding his way out.
As a result of his talk radio program in which people would call in to discuss issues, both local, church related and personal, he ended up counseling a woman who was having marital problems. After a few counseling sessions he ended up going to bed with her – this was his first and major failure. That woman’s husband found out about it and would call in to his radio program to lambast him on the air. He also called the shows sponsors to tell on him and harassed him as much as he could in order to do him harm.
He could no longer deal with this and sought to eliminate the husband as a problem. He actually contracted a hit man to kill the woman’s husband. However he ended up hiring an undercover cop for the job. He dug himself deeper in the pit. He was out on bail when he came to me and asked for me to pray for him and to be with him and his wife during court proceedings. He was found guilty and I was also with him when he was sentenced: he got three years prison followed by three years of probation.
I communicated with him and his wife at various times while in prison until he got out. I also gave his wife the money she needed to travel to the prison to see him. By this time he changed, but for the worse as he now had a “chip on his shoulder” and he no longer communicated with me. He treated me as though I was now on the other side as an adversary, especially since I left the seminary and was workings as a probation officer at the time.
While he was on probation he became a voice for the criminals with whom he identified with while in prison. He joined the local ACLU, an opponent of most things Christian, and became the local director. As their central Florida spokesperson he was present at all such demonstrations and protests. He relished being in front of the TV cameras making his case for the cause. He was no longer and ambassador for Christ but became and ambassador for sinners. What a change.
During this time his wife passed away; she was several years older than he. He finished his period of probation and I still never heard from him, and I no longer knew where he was. A couple years later he died. I still remain dumbfounded at his turn in life and frequently wonder how such a thing could happen. But then again, others in ministry have fallen into depraved conditions; some recovered, others have not.
Several times since his death I have thought about his situation and asked why, and how, as it troubled me since I was so close to him at one time. Then I got serious in my desire to understand what happened. I posed my question to the Lord and He gave me the answer immediately in very plain and simple terms. His problem was twofold; first he failed to “die to self, and take up his cross daily and follow” after Jesus. This is essential for anyone going into the ministry.
Luke 9:23-24 – And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. 24 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.
After he got in trouble all his focus was on “self-preservation” rather than on humbling himself and repenting for the wrong he had done. Self-preservation is what the apostle Peter did when he denied Jesus three times. That is when a person opens himself up to the wiles of Satan, which is what my friend did. Death to self, its fleshly vulnerability (1 John 2:15-16), prevents the devil from getting a hold of any fleshly weakness in a person.
His second area of failure was in not praying, he lost his fellowship with God. His zeal for God was replaced with a zeal for his work, his so-called ministry. He was so busy achieving his success that he no longer had time for God. His prayer life dropped to zero. It got to where he was operating on his own effort rather than being led of the Lord. He got so professional and so used to doing things his own way that he no longer needed the Lord’s help or guidance, so his prayer life dropped. He was doing his own thing rather than God’s. His life reminded me of what Jesus wrote through the apostle John to the Ephesian church where they lost their first love - even though they were diligent in “their” ministry.
Revelation 2:2-5 – Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks; I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: and hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name’s sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted. Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent
Jesus’ warning to the Ephesians was that He would remove their candlestick from its rightful place – they would lose their status as a church belonging to Christ.
A similar warning was issued by Jesus in Matthew about those who portend to work for Him rather than let Him work THRU them; a warning about doing their OWN thing and not HIS, (which is more common today than most realize). Doing things your way rather than his way is referred by Christ as “iniquity” which is also rebellion – doing your own thing. This is man’s attempt to build the church that Christ declared He would build.
Matthew 7:21-23 – Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
A wise man seeks Him and obeys Him in order to do His work: His work is to build His house and you must build it His way, not your way. You must spend time with Him to hear His instructions and be led by Him; otherwise what you build will collapse when the storms of life hit.
Matthew 7:24-27 – Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.
The work of the ministry in His name requires doing things His way and being led of His Spirit. This requires prayer, time in communion with Him; also fellowship with Him by being in His Word. Failure to do this makes one vulnerable to the enemy’s subtle tactics.
John 10:10 – The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.
1 Peter 5:6-8 – Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.
Jesus knows how to protect, defend and lead His servants, but they must know His voice and follow Him and not get caught up in “their” ministry so much as to not have time to spend with Him. After all, it is His work we are to be doing, not ours; it is all for His honor and glory, not for our own. Our problems begin when we think the work and effort are ours and not His!
Luke 18:1 – And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint;
1 Thessalonians 5:17 – Pray without ceasing!