He pastored one of the fastest-growing Foursquare churches ever. John (not his real name) was in his 30s and cavalier. He exuded a confidence that became sullied with pride. This “perfect storm” of success and blindness set him up for an immoral relationship that ripped apart his life, family and ministry. The pain of his sin was not confined to a small circle. The shame of his conduct continues to reverberate throughout the community even though it has been 10 years. The cost to his wife and children, his staff, his friends, the congregation and himself has been incalculable. Even today some are not able to get past this complicated journey. He fully understands that.
Recently I left my office in Los Angeles for a visit with him. It wasn’t a long drive to the industrial area that was a hodgepodge of business interests. I got out of my car near a thrift store and asked a security guard if he knew where I could find John. He gave me directions to a small building on the back of the lot.
I found John sitting in a tiny, non-descript office where he oversees a rescue mission. Fifty-five people spend the night at the center where he works, but John estimates that he turns down 30 families for every one that he is able to take in. There are plans for a 250-bed facility a few miles away. But it’s a drop in the bucket compared to the need. Los Angeles County has been called the homeless capital of the U.S. because on any given night, there are approximately 73,000 homeless but only 19,000 beds.
I didn’t encounter a proud man that day. I encountered a broken one. John wept several times talking about the amazing opportunity before him. He spoke of the privilege to be trusted to help care for people who have hit bottom. He shared with me several of their stories. He gets the connection. Compassionate people, compelled by a mandate from God, respond to the desperate cries of others.
John understands that he will never walk across the platform at a Foursquare convention and receive recognition for 25 years of continuous service as a licensed Foursquare minister. But he clings to the promise given to Israel, “I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten.” (Joel 2:25 NKJV)
For maybe the first time in his life, John is content to quietly serve off the beaten path and out of the limelight. He figures that if God wouldn’t give up on him, then he won’t give up on those he now serves! I plan to be there when the Lord congratulates him with the one award we can’t give: “Inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.” (Matthew 25:40 NKJV) John’s past behavior took something away from a lot of people. Now, he is beginning to give back. I’m glad I got to witness firsthand this redemptive act of God.
“I have blotted out, like a thick cloud, your transgressions, and like a cloud, your sins. Return to Me, for I have redeemed you.” -Isaiah 44:22 NKJV