It’s good to see that The Journey church has set up a Member & Attender Support Page. No doubt this must be a time of spiritual crisis for many in the congregation as they try to understand how a beloved pastor can sin so grievously. I personally know the tremendous confusion and distress that results when a preacher that God has greatly blessed in your life falls into sin. Many questions arise: Was I deceived? Is it all a deception? Was the blessing a delusion? Are other preachers just the same? Who can I trust? Why would God use such men to bless so many people? Was God not able to stop him from falling?

In such painful and puzzling circumstances a support page is a good pastoral use of technology. I especially liked the way that various preachers were invited to send living and vibrant video messages of pastoral and prayerful support towards the congregation and also to the fallen pastor and his family.

But, there’s something vital missing from all this. What about the victims? According to the church’s letter to their members, the pastor had hurt many people along the way over many years. His sins included:

  • Refusal of personal accountability (I Pet. 5.1)
  • Lack of self-control (I Tim. 3.2)
  • Manipulation and lying.
  • Domineering over those in his charge (I Pet. 5.3)
  • Misuse of power/authority (I Pet. 5.3)

Each of these sins involves a victim, perhaps many, and most of these wounded sheep will now be scattered across many churches, or perhaps even churchless through disillusionment. But watch the videos and read the statements. You would think these were victimless sins. Yes, the pastor and his family need prayer and support, but the victims need it first and foremost.

I’m not picking on The Journey, it’s just that this gives such a sadly typical example of the way most churches ignore or forget the victims. Usually it’s not done deliberately, but rather thoughtlessly. Oftentimes, it’s because the victims have moved on and are no longer part of the church. Sometimes, crisis-management is just so focused on survival that the wider consequences are not thought through. But it’s also possible that the same celebrity-worship that contributed to the pastor’s fall is still skewing extra pastoral attention to him to the omission of the lesser-known victims.

One way to put this right would be to post a “Victim Support Page” with similar videos, but this time directed towards these bleeding sheep for whom this disciplinary intervention came too late. Whatever support and care is being poured into the pastor and his family, the victims deserve double that. And if the victims can face it, the pastor himself should be involved in reaching out to each and every victim to ask for forgiveness before any consideration is given to any future ministry role.

Yes the pastor needs grace. But the victims need justice.

Other posts in this series here.

  • Barnabas

    I’m glad The Journey as created a safe space for the victims of spiritual microaggressions.

    • David Murray

      Hi Barnabas, you’ve commented now about 15 times on four articles, most of them critical and lacking any constructive solutions. I don’t mind critique and I don’t want to stop you commenting, but I’m asking you to consider two things. First, would you limit yourself to one comment per article as is the norm for most people? Second, would you consider being more constructive in order to make the debate more beneficial? If you would do the latter, the former would not be so necessary to ask. I’m trying to be reasonable here, trying to find a balance between allowing comment and not allowing dominance by someone who does not seem to have much helpful to say. Try to imagine yourself in a public meeting where someone is speaking four or five times as much as anyone else. Any reasonable moderator would object to that, especially if the comments were only critical. It not only pushes out other voices but also discourages others from speaking. And if you feel you must speak so much, and If you really feel strongly, why not set up your own blog and make your case that way?

  • Patrick Ramsey

    I am not sure if you are planning on doing this but it might be helpful to provide an actual case of spiritual abuse and how a counselor might respond to that particular case. Names of course would be changed. But a concrete example would be beneficial in a number of ways.

  • Rickie Gay

    It is refreshing to see someone addressing justice for victims within Reformed churches. I am a survivor of pastoral abuse in the PCA church. Not only was I a member of the congregation, I was also the Ministry Assistant at my church. The church called in PastorServe to help navigate through this difficult time. While this seemed like a good thing in the beginning, it became clear that they wanted to move quickly to counseling me and my husband on marriage, rather than address that what happened to me was abuse. While the session acknowledged that what happened to me was abuse, they looked at the sexual aspect as “adultery” for which they exercised church discipline. They believed I chose, or had a percentage of blame that I needed to own. Culpability was the term they used. Coercion was a word they did NOT agree with. A Scripture they applied to my situation was 2 Timothy 3:6-7 “They are the kind who work their way into people’s homes and win the confidence of[a] vulnerable women who are burdened with the guilt of sin and controlled by various desires. 7 (Such women are forever following new teachings, but they are never able to understand the truth.) ” For one year I was unable to sing on the worship team or serve in any aspect of the church. I also had to step
    away from my job at the church. They paid my salary for one year but at
    that end of the year they felt it was best that I didn’t return to my

    Thank you for shining God’s truth in the dark places the church wants to remain hidden. From a bleeding sheep whose wounds are slow to heal but I know God, in His sweet mercy, is able!

  • agapecounselor

    Thank you so much for this post David. I am so encouraged that someone with a voice that reaches as far as yours has drawn attention to the very real needs of those who need care in recovering from sinful pastors and/or churches where the grace given by Jesus to His people through the cross (see e.g. Romans 7 & 8; Eph. 2:1-10; Gal. 2:20, 6:14) has not been a meaningful part of their experience. Also, thank you very much for your excellent book, “Christians Get Depressed Too.” I and those I counsel have been so blessed by it. Your video is also a great blessing. I include Spurgeon’s Lecture XI as part of the reading I have for everyone struggling with depression and dark nights of the soul. In fact, I have a copy-right free version of the entire book on my website for anyone who would like to download it, along with Dr. Ronald Enroth’s book, “Recovering from Churches that Abuse.” Dr. Enroth gave me written permission to turn it into an eBook and distribute it free of charge. Both are available here: No sign-up is required. Again, thank you for all you do and God bless you, David

  • Steve Meister

    Prof. Murray: Thank you for this post, necessary and on point, in my opinion. Though I have deeper questions about whether the way a “church” (quotes, intended) like Journey is structured is really the entire problem. It seems evident by calling an online interface and some videos “support” – isn’t that really indicative of the whole problem?

    Does not the media-saturated, multi-site, mega-church simply create these failures? And do not most of the sins of which their “pastor” (again, intentional) was guilty grow by (sinful) nature in the climate of distance, isolation, and celebrity that is created by such media? I’m guessing that most people at Journey knew their “pastor” as well as they know the men in the videos on their support page?

    In other words, at what point do we say that this broken (really, nonexistent) ecclesiology that distances people from one another, but offers an illusory community, fellowship and pastoral care, is what creates these situations – and it will continue unabated until it’s repented of. Maybe I’m suggesting that all the culprits take responsibility, not just the disgraced “pastors,” but those who propagate, feed, and support this approach and call it “church”? I guess that would include even those men offering “support” via video – is the blood not on their hands, too?

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