Thursday, July 1, 2010

Introducing Justin

I'm gonna have to be completely honest here. Usually, being honest is easy for me, for the most part. But today it's gonna be difficult. I did not like this guy. I just didn't. Years ago I did...I adored him. He was the youth pastor at a church we used to attend and my oldest son was crazy about him. He was so easy to like back then. In fact, we liked him so much, that when he and his family moved to a different state to start a church, we were in between churches and so for a while, we sent them our help start their church that we would never attend because it was so far away. We just wanted to support a cause for Christ, and we believed in and were excited about this new church he would plant.

This is where it gets ugly. Soon his church was a success. There was growth and attendance. I assume too that their were hearts being reached and lives being changed. But this pastor engaged in an affair with a staff member, nearly destroying the lives of his wife and his three sons. Now, I'm all about grace and redemption, but apparently in my heart I held him to a higher standard. He was a pastor. I felt he was free to make a lot of mistakes. No one can be free from sin. I didn't think he was a liar or a fraud. But I was disgusted. I didn't think he should be kicked out of the church. But I also didn't think he should be a pastor any longer. And for a while, he wasn't.

Last year, one year ago exactly, Justin was hired to be the campus pastor of our newest church location in my town. It is, in fact, the closest campus to my home and so you would think I would be very eager to attend the new location. I wasn't. Because of him. My rationale was that it was just too soon. I don't think I believed he had suffered enough. Funny....that isn't my call, but in my own heart, I had an opinion. His story is amazing. He and his wife are an unbelievable example of grace, restoration, redemption, and love. And I already knew that....I just didn't think I could stomach him in the flesh. (To type this out makes me want to vomit....but I think I'm probably in the popular majority...and I'm just trying to be honest).

Our community was utterly pounded by the flood. For weeks after the flood and before the new campus launch, our community rallied to serve those who had lost nearly everything. For the few weeks before our new campus launched, I witnessed community like I had never seen before. This really endeared me to the new campus and made me want to go and visit just for the opening weekend. But no more than that...just a quick prop and then we'd get out of there. That first service was so powerful. I wept. The kids LOVED the new location. All I can say is now we are regular attenders of the new campus. We feel like we are truly at home. And pastor Justin is a humble, redeemed, forgiven sinner who I am so thankful to be able to call my pastor. I truly do not know of a better example to learn from than that of the journey, the public journey, He and his wife Trisha have walked. I am not envious of the affair, but I am truly envious (in a good way) of the love and the bond that God has constructed with His power between the two of them. He has created a ministry that will no doubt save hundreds or thousands of marriages over time. And I am willing to bank that Justin is a better pastor today than he ever could have hoped to be before his fall from grace.

I want to introduce you to Justin and his blog. I am asking for forgiveness for my harsh judgement and condemnation in my spirit towards Justin. I truly believe God has worked a miracle in Justin, his marriage and his ministry. And I am so thankful that I get to be a witness. And I am grateful for the humbling experience I have been through as a Christian with a hardened heart. We all fall short of the grace of God.

I encourage you to follow Justin's blog. It is truly incredible. I especially love the post he wrote today. I have added him to my blog list on the left side of my own blog. Or you can click here to read this incredible post.

Justin and Trish, I am sorry that my heart was cold toward you. I know you didn't know, but you do now...and I'm sorry. I'm sorry I doubted God's plan (HA!) and the leadership of Crosspoint to bring you on board. You just might be one of the sweetest deals that Crosspoint has got going. We are blessed to have you. Happy 1 year anniversary.


Jason said...

Melissa, this is one of the best blog posts I've read this year. Maybe this century.

In 2000 I was run from ministry because I had a pornography addiction and all but one person treated me with the same feelings that you describe toward Justin. They wouldn't speak to me. The day I moved away none of them showed up to help me pack up. I was tossed aside as a worthless sinner who couldn't be perfect while in ministry work.

To this day, not a single one of the former co-workers, not a single former "friend" or former church member who discarded me like garbage has ever apologized for their behavior. While I know it's likely some of them now regret their actions it's one of those places where most Christians just keep things to themselves and "move on."

Your post here gives me hope because of your honesty, your humble brokenness and your transparency. You didn't have to post this for the world to see. You could have just told Justin and Trisha privately but instead you took a bold stand for forgiveness, grace and second chances.

Well done, Melissa. I know you weren't looking for a pat on the back for this but I can't not do it. Well done.

Crayon Wrangler said...

Great post about a real walk of faith, love and forgiveness. Well done

somewhereinthyme said...

Melissa, great post. Those of us who are believers have redeemed hearts, redeemed pasts, and redeemed futures if we walk with Jesus. Forgiveness and love are such powerful things. Far more powerful than anger and judgement, if, we let Christ rule in and through us.

Sarah said...

Melissa, thank you for your openness and vulnerability. This was such an encouraging post, and I'm thrilled to hear what God has done in your heart and in Justin and Trish's ministry. I visited his blog and was very moved by a couple of his posts. I'll be following him as well. God bless you and your family today.

Melissa said...

a huge part of why I love you is evident in this post. you are a woman of grace. the fact that you can be honest about your disdain for this man and yet still be open to recognizing God's leading is tremendous. i heart you.