It’s time to fix what we’ve done to the Church. If we don’t, God will, and I don’t think anyone is prepared for that.

Author’s Note: To this point, in every article I’ve written, I have been careful NOT to mention names, dates, or locations of any of the churches I have been part of. My purpose has been to share systemic issues I’ve witnessed, not bring down any one entity or person. You will see a clear departure from that rule in this article. I will mention names, dates, and locations. The reason for the departure from my self-imposed protocol is that the story in this article is public now. You can Google any of the names I mention and read a hundred articles about it. I am not saying anything you cannot read somewhere else. And for the purpose of what I have to say, I believe the specifics play an important role in understanding the context of what I and so many others experienced. Be advised though: this article deals with sensitive topics. Reader discretion is advised.

I was a member of Gateway Church for ten years. If you have followed this blog for any amount of time you know that in the years I was active there, I was all in. Sold out. Drank the Kool-aid, so to speak. When we left that church in 2015, it was not because we wanted to. But we had planted roots in a new town and the hour-and-a-half commute was no longer feasible. So with heavy hearts, we said goodbye to our Gateway family. My husband called us alumni. We felt like that church was always home.

A few years after leaving, my husband and I both hesitantly began to admit to each other that we were sorting through whether we were worshipping God or Robert Morris when we were there. He was practically a god. Everyone adored him. Everyone spoke highly of him. He was our fearless, humble, funny, down-to-earth, kind, thoughtful, clever, brilliant leader. He could do no wrong in our eyes.

As scandal after scandal has come forward in megachurches in recent years, I have continually thought to myself, “I’m so glad Robert Morris has never been caught up in one of those scandals. I guess he really is one of the good ones.”

How very wrong I’ve been.

Let me preface everything I’m about to say with this: I know that I had my admiration for him out of balance. I know that I put him on a pedestal in my heart and mind on which he had no business. I know I was wrong for thinking there are infallible men of God. I know.

None of that changes the fact that in my twenties and early thirties, having come out of an extremely abusive church, Gateway was a haven of healing for me and my husband. We figured out who we were there. We got married while we were members there. We learned what worship is there. We felt like we were in Bible University, learning and soaking in. It was an important, formative time for us. No wonder we worshipped the ground Robert Morris walked on. He felt like the reason we were growing. Healing. Strengthening. In fact, the culture there perpetuated those kinds of thoughts. All I heard over and over was that Gateway was a culture of “high honor” and that we would always speak well of our leadership. I bought into that mentality hook, line, and sinker and I never questioned it.

It scares me how many times I’ve watched cult documentaries and felt uncomfortable at how similar they are to churches I’ve been a part of in the past. It scares me more that in those moments, I never stopped to think about that, but immediately dismissed those gut feelings as coincidence.

I was on a mini-vacation this weekend with my family when I first heard the news about Rober Morris’s transgressions–on TikTok, of all places. I immediately dismissed it as gossip, but curiosity got the best of me and I began to Google it. Article after article popped up. Too many to be coincidences or gossip.

The man I had trusted so deeply was not at all who I thought he was.

I was there the Sunday he confessed to having been unfaithful to his wife years ago. Somewhere around 2011 on a regular Sunday morning, in a regular sermon, Robert confessed that in his early twenties, he had been unfaithful to his wife, Debbie. I was speechless. Floored. It felt like the rug had been pulled out from under me. I was not the only one who felt that way. We discussed it at length in my Bible study groups and women’s groups. My husband and I discussed it. It took me a while, but I eventually arrived at this conclusion: it was years ago, his wife forgave him, and so can I. That became enough. I got over my shock and disappointment. I never really looked at him the same after that, but in one way, it made him a bit less god-like and a bit more human. I moved on. All of us did.

Had we known that his “unfaithfulness” had been with a 12-year-old LITTLE GIRL, none of us would have darkened the doors of that church again.

I think that’s what upsets me so much. I’ve known for years of his “fall from grace.” All who went to Gateway knew. We all thought it was a consensual affair with an adult woman. That’s what we were led to believe. None of us could have imagined what really happened. An affair is bad enough. But at the VERY least, it’s consensual. At the very least, it takes “two to tango,” to use an idiom. At the very least, an affair can be overcome. I’ve seen it happen. It’s not a crime, it’s just wrong. Evil. Sad. Heartbreaking. A sin against God.

But an affair can be healed.

Pedophilia is a whole other thing.

It’s not just that it’s a sin. It’s not just that it’s wrong. It’s not just that it’s evil.

It’s a crime. Against a child. Innocent. Non-consensual. And Robert Morris never paid for it.

I read in one article that in 2005 when the victim first attempted a lawsuit, Morris’s lawyer contended that she was “flirtatious” and that was the reason Morris was tempted. In other words, he said it was her fault.

I’m so disgusted it’s difficult to think of anything else.

I cannot help but think of the victim who has had to live through her own scars, all while watching that man — her monster — become one of the most prominent, revered pastors in the world. She had to sort through her demons while he was lifted higher and higher.

I cannot help but think of those original church elders at Shady Grove Baptist (where Robert was pastoring at the time) who helped to brush this under the rug.

I cannot help but think of the thousands upon thousands of people who listened to the man, trusted him, and looked to him for guidance. Will they ever trust God after this? Will they be able to separate what they learned from Robert Morris from the man he is?

I cannot help but think of his family. What did they know? What did he hide? What portions of truth have they built their entire worldview upon? Or did they know everything? Did they hide it with him?

I cannot help but think of all the people I know who will never darken the doors of a church again because of monsters like him. They’ll hear this story and tally it up with the mountains of evidence against the Church. And they’ll use that evidence against God himself.

I cannot help but think of Robert himself. Has he lived knowing one day his past would come back for vengeance? Or has he told himself he’s above retribution? Has he deluded himself into thinking he got away with it? Does he think he should still be able to get away with it?

The sheer amount of narcissism on the parts of so many that it takes to hide something like this for thirty-five years is astounding. Appalling. Utterly disgraceful. Unconscionable. It will have ripple effects on the lives of tens of thousands for years to come.

But I believe something is shifting.

I believe God is flipping the tables, so to speak. I believe he’s revealing the wolves in sheep’s clothing. I believe he’s ripping up the foundations of this thing we’ve bastardized called Church. I believe he is calling his people back to him, separating the wheat from the chaff.

But it is painful. It is heartbreaking. It is terrifying.

Do you remember that scene in The Land Before Time when the earthquake separates the little dinosaurs from the adult dinosaurs? They stood on the precipice of opposing cliffs and watched, knowing they couldn’t get to each other. They endured the horrors of the very foundations of the earth beneath them shaking and ripping them apart. And when everything settled, there was a clear demarcation between them — between what was and what would be.

Yes, I just used a 1980s children’s film as a metaphor for the Church, but I think sometimes visual aids are helpful in understanding. I write entire novels based on that concept, so I guess it’s par for the course. The point is: I believe a great shift is happening. I believe we are in the midst of it. I believe those of us who helped build this house of cards are realizing the folly of our thinking. We’re realizing that reaching people is not the point of the Church — worshipping the Father is. We’re realizing that evangelism is what happens OUTSIDE the four walls, not within. The Church should never be used as a great used car lot for showmanship and cheap sales tactics. It should never be used as a country club for the lazy Christians who do the bare minimum in order to check off the God box on their to-do list. It should never be used as a kiddie pool to trap thousands if not millions of people into a floaty-wearing cesspool of immature Christian dimwits.

The Church should be the shining city on the hill.

The Church should be the place where people remove their sandals, standing in awe before a Holy God on Holy Ground.

But if we’re going to be that Church, we HAVE to be willing to draw a hard line in the sand. We have to be willing to remove the unfit from the pulpit. We have to be willing to prosecute criminals within our midst, weed out charlatans, call out liars, and rebuke deceivers. We have to be willing to hear hard truths from a Holy God, even when they’re delivered in a non-sexy way. We have to be willing to sacrifice our insatiable need for entertainment on the altar of holiness. We have to stop giving monsters an ever-climbing platform simply because they’re charismatic, funny, and seem genuine. We have to stop with Church Celebrity Culture, crass humor, marketing gimmicks, fog machines, male strippers performing pole dances at mens’ conferences, pastors having sex with their wives on the church rooftop so that the media will write an article, worship leaders dressing like whores, services looking like rock concerts. We have to stop trying to make discipleship sexy and evangelism like door-to-door salesman. We have to stop buying LED lights when we can’t even feed the hungry in our community. We have to stop putting our pastors in mega-mansions and Maseratis. We have to stop building churches around personalities and church brands around Celebrity Pastors. We have to stop allowing narcissists to give themselves platforms of influence. We have to stop allowing ourselves to be wooed by charisma over Truth. We have to stop.

We have to.

We have no other choice now.

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