His name is Gary Lamb, and he had everything going for him. When he was in his late 20s, he and some friends relocated to the small town of Canton, GA and started Ridge Stone Church. The vision behind it was to be a contemporary, bold church that would appeal to the largely unchurched rough-and-rowdy redneck culture of small town USA (their words, not mine). It worked. Within just a few years, Ridge Stone was averaging 1,000 people a week, taking in gobs of money, and its story was traveling the world. On top of their game, they even changed their name to Revolution Church to reflect the wave they were riding.
The success of Revolution catapulted its young lead pastor to the national scene – thousands of followers on Twitter, a widely read blog, speaking engagements. In the ultra-exclusive good ole boy network of church planters, a small group led by Perry Noble in South Carolina, Gary had a seat at the big kids table.
Intrigued by his story and confused by his abrasive preaching style, we visited Revolution before we started our church. Beka and I went down there one Sunday along with Adam and MC. It was strange. It left you with an odd feeling. Yes, there were tons of people. Yes, they looked like folks that Abba’s House isn’t likely to attract. But there was something about it that felt off; the majority of the service was Gary’s preaching and people lingered in the lobby of the movie theater where the church met waiting for their chance to shake his hands and have their moment with him. But being the eternal pragmatist, I dismissed it as simply a difference in style and culture from the way I lead and the church I lead.
May 2009. Gary posts a “tweet” with a link to his resignation letter. It had finally surfaced that he was having an affair with his assistant. His wife would be divorcing him, and the church was moving on without him.
What happened in the days and weeks following was nothing less than a soap opera. Within just days of the announcement and resignation, Gary was on Twitter talking about how life must go on, the sun came up another morning, and HE was beginning to put the pieces back together. No mention of his wife, his young kids, the church, or the greater damage to the Gospel of Christ.
Gary decided to follow the advice of some of his friends and took a sabbatical from Twitter. It didn’t last long. In a few weeks, he was back on Twitter, and he made no effort at subtly when discussing what was next – in 2010, he was starting another church.
Earlier this week, he announced on his website that his new church would be holding its first informational meeting in a few weeks. I am sure this has nothing to do with the fact that Revolution Church just named a new pastor at the beginning of the year, and it is probably unrelated to the fact that another large church in Catersville is opening a Canton campus this year.
After months of silence or subtle rebukes, some church leaders are finally starting to use their platforms to speak out against this madness. Kudos to Oak Leaf Church’s pastor for taking the charge on this issue. Oak Leaf is the church starting the Canton campus this year mentioned above – may they reach many people who are looking for a church that is run with integrity (although I do gripe against Oak Leaf for copying virtually everything that Elevation Church in Charlotte does, that is a far cry from cheating on your wife!)
I decided to write about this and my first instinct was not to use names. But then I decided against that – if these people are going to do these things in public, we need to discuss it in the public sphere. Also, there may be some folks in Canton thinking about going to this new church who will be doing some “Googling” in an effort to get a perspective – maybe they’ll read this and it will help bring some clarity.
Here’s the bottom line: God is a God of grace and second chances. I believe in restoration. I believe fallen ministers can rise again. But here is what the Scripture says…
“Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently.” Galatians 6:1
Do you notice the word “gently”? Restoration takes time, effort, and it’s a slow process. Announcing a new church within weeks of losing your last one for an affair – that’s not restoration. Plain and simple.
The Scripture also says…
“Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task. Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach…” 1 Timothy 3:1-2
Pastors who have affairs are not victims. Their wives are the victims. Their kids are the victims. Their churches and communities, those are the victims.
Now someone might read this and caution me against arrogance – “Dana, you’re no better than this guy you’re writing about…you could just as easily fall into the same type of sin.”
That’s true, and if I do, I should be fired and locked out of the building. And if I start talking about doing it all over again that quickly, use whatever platform you have to warn others about me.